The law requiring Landlords in England to carry out 'right to rent' checks on their Tenants came into force on the 1st of February 2016. The right to rent checks aimed at making it difficult for illegal immigrants to settle in the UK. Under the scheme, landlords will need to check that tenants, whether or not they are named on the tenancy agreement have valid IDs with proof that they can live in the UK. Proof of rights to residency may include birth certificates and a biometric residence permit. Failure to comply often lead to fines of up to GBP3,000 with continuous offenders facing a risk of up to 5 years in prison.
Since then, not only have vulnerable illegal immigrants been left distraught and out in the cold, even British citizens without passports are also left disadvantaged. Campaigners have argued that there is a lack sufficient evidence to show that this approach is having a positive impact in the Government's bid to create an unconducive environment for illegal immigrants. There is also the issue of ethics; is it really ethical to deprive people of shelter just because they have no immigration status in the UK?
In a recent survey carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the research suggests that there are discriminatory issues resulting from the implementation of this directive. It went further to say that "landlords who have no wish to discriminate are being forced to do so".
108 landlords responded to the survey; and over 51% agreed that the right to rent checks made them less likely to rent to foreigners. 42% will probably not rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the new directive. Understandably, this behaviour is propelled by the extra checks needed if the tenant is not British.
The research found out that a British Black Minority Ethic (BME) tenant without a passport was 26% more likely to meet a negative or null feedback from landlords compared with BME who could provide a British passport. There was however no evidence of racial discrimination between a BME and white British prospecting tenant where both of them had passports.
It therefore follows, conclusively, that there exists strong discrimination found in the implementation of the right to rent scheme. The report however mentions that the resulting discrimination was directly linked to the Right to rent scheme; in other words not because landlords themselves where inherently racist.
The JCWI therefore accused the Government of not only supporting racial discrimination, but also of being unable to show evidence as to the 'supposed benefits' of the scheme.
Whilst it may be untrue that the Government was ill-motived in rolling out the scheme, it is clear that there are flaws inherent in the directive. From a human rights point of view, the Government must do more to ensure that illegal migrants are not treated as less-humans or second class citizens. Landlords should not have to refuse people accommodation because they don't have legal status in the UK. In a situation where an individual is fleeing violence and trying to claim asylum in the country, does it mean that they should have nowhere to stay until their asylum claim is approved?
What about situations where a migrant's leave has already expired but had already lodged a new application before his/her leave expired. Legally, such an individual is seen as continuing to have leave to remain i.e. not illegal. They are protected by what is called Section 3C Leave. Where such an individual is not able to show rights to residence document(s), he/she may not be able to rent in the UK, despite having legal status.