High Court condemns immigration test for tenants

08 March 2019

‘Hostile environment’ scheme found to be discriminatory

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RULES that forced private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants were ruled as incompatible with human-rights law last week.

The “right to rent” scheme, introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, was found to be “discriminatory” by the High Court.

Mr Justice Spencer said that it was unlawful on the grounds that it caused racial discrimination. The ruling followed a legal challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).

The policy officer for the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, Dr Sophie Cartwright, said last week: “The Right to Rent scheme is a tool of the hostile environment, designed to create destitution and to further marginalise refused asylum-seekers and other vulnerable migrants. It is both cruel and dangerous.

“Today’s High Court ruling that it is unlawful is very welcome. The Right to Rent scheme — and indeed the entire hostile-environment agenda — must be abandoned immediately.”

Mr Justice Spencer said that the policy forced landlords to discriminate against British citizens from minority-ethnic backgrounds and against foreign nationals who had a legal right to rent. “MPs who voted for this legislation would be aghast to learn of its discriminatory effect as shown by the evidence.

“In my judgment, the evidence, when taken together, strongly showed not only that landlords are discriminating against potential tenants on grounds of nationality and ethnicity, but also that they are doing so because of the scheme.

“It is my view that the scheme introduced by the Government does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate, but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not.”

The legal policy director for the JWCI, Chai Patel, said: “Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it.

“But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life — it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools. Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg, and demonstrates why the hostile environment must be dismantled.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the judgment, and we have been granted permission to appeal, which reflects the important points of law that were considered in the case. In the mean time, we are giving careful consideration to the judge’s comments.”

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