On ‘Right to Rent’ – what’s happened already and where are we now?

Right to Rent legislation obliges landlords to undertake checks to ensure they are not providing private accommodation to those with certain immigration restrictions. Brought in under the 2014 Immigration Act, the scheme has served as a key component of the hostile environment for years, but in March 2019 was deemed discriminatory in a landmark High Court judgement.

Read on for a summary of the key developments that led to the decision, as well as an update on how to get behind the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)’s campaign for lasting reform.

How did it all begin?

The government introduced the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme initially as a pilot in the West Midlands in December 2014. The following year, JCWI released a report, ‘No Passport = No Home’, which found the scheme to be discriminatory.

Later that year, plans were announced to roll the scheme out across England, and the government published an evaluation of the West Midlands pilot. Once it was rolled out, the 2016 Immigration Act introduced new criminal offences as part of the scheme, and granted landlords additional powers which came into force in October 2016.

In 2017, JCWI published ‘Passport Please’, which further explored the impact of the checks on migrants and ethnic minorities. In 2018, following months of discussions, a legal claim was brought against the Home Office. The court case continued until December 2018, before the High Court ruled in March 2019 that ‘Right to Rent’ checks cause discrimination and should be scrapped.

The judgement, which can be read in full here, was an indictment of the scheme in its entirety, and as JCWI’s Policy Adviser Zoe Gardner explained in a recent Free Movement blog, represents ‘a major blow to the logic of the whole hostile environment.’

What happens now?

Unsurprisingly, the Home Office has filed an appeal, and a court date is expected within the next few months. Until then the scheme remains in place, but that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. Indeed, it is vital that momentum is maintained to bring this particular pillar of the hostile environment down quickly.

This is because, as JCWI explain, not only is the government making a legal challenge to this clearly damning verdict of a flagship policy, but they plan ‘to extend these policies to EU nationals through the Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination Bill. Anyone from the EU who cannot prove their status risks being denied access to housing, healthcare, employment benefits and bank accounts, just like the Windrush Generation. This Bill was an opportunity to create a fair, humane and evidence-based immigration system. Instead, the Government will have a blank cheque to change any immigration law, and will be able to extend the Hostile Environment to EU nationals in the UK. Now is a critical moment to take action.’

JCWI continue to apply pressure on the system, both through calls to scrap the scheme directly (with the added bonus of saving public money on a drawn out legal challenge!) or via amendments in the upcoming Immigration Bill (which is currently at the final stage in the House of Commons before progressing to the House of Lords).

Join the call for change today by asking your local MP to scrap the hostile environment.

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