Right to Rent policy in Scotland and Wales successfully challenged

Published: 01 Mar 2019

The UK Government’s Right to Rent policy has today been found to be incompatible with human rights and in breach of the Equality Act 2010. The judgment prevents the UK Government from rolling out the controversial policy in Scotland and Wales. The court also found that the policy in England breaches human rights law.

The policy, which requires all landlords to check the immigration status of any potential tenant, has been in full force in England since 2016. We warned that the policy would increase racial discrimination as landlords would opt simply not to rent to anyone they suspected might not be eligible. The penalty for illegal renting is an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison, although first time offenders would be likely to receive a £1,000 fine. 

Speaking today, Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“If this policy had been introduced in Scotland and Wales, landlords could have been forced to racially discriminate through fear of being fined for letting a property to the wrong person. Landlords are not immigration officials and it is profoundly wrong to put them in that position. We provided expert advice in this case because the Government failed to take into account the impact these rules would have on people’s rights which are protected under equality legislation and under the Human Rights Act.”

The ruling confirms that the existing policy in England is unlawful and the proposal to extend the policy to Scotland and Wales is incompatible with the Government’s international human rights obligations in terms of private life and non-discrimination. The Government was also found to be acting in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

In making the ruling the Mr Justice Spencer said of the current policy in England:

“In my judgement, 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.”

He went on to say that it would be irrational to extend the policy to Scotland and Wales.

Commenting on the ruling, Chai Patel of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants which led the challenge said:

“There is no place for racism in the UK housing market. Now that the High Court has confirmed that Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, Parliament must act immediately to scrap it.”

Notes to editors

The challenge was led by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and supported by the Equality and Human Right’s Commission, Liberty, and the Residents and Landlords Association. The ruling (CO/598/2018) was released today by the High Court of Justice in London.

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