The controversial Right-to-Rent scheme comes under attack from north and south of the border, as a case comes before the Royal Courts of Justice in London with an attempt to block the roll-out of the scheme toScotland.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has been critical of the scheme since it was introduced in England in 2016, and now says that its research finds that forty four per cent of private landlords are less likely to rent to those without a British passport.
This figure, the RLA says, has increased from 42 per cent a year ago and comes as the High Court begins a Judicial Review of the Government’s flagship scheme.
Under the scheme, landlords are made responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenant applicants, with the threat of a fine and criminal prosecution if they had “reasonable cause to believe” that a tenant or tenants they let to, did not have the right to rent in the UK.
The government now plans to extend the scheme to Scotland and Wales amid opposition from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which, according to The Herald Scotland, is bringing the case, claiming that the rules, part of the Home Office’s “hostile environment policy”, will increase discrimination against people from ethnic minorities.
Critics claim the scheme is forcing landlords to become de-facto immigration enforcement officers, though the Home Office says that that is not the case: that the checks are not extensive and that employers have to carryout checks as well.
The Scottish human rights experts who will give evidence in court are calling for all Scottish landlords to be excluded from the scheme, as they are at present.
John Wilkes, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland (EHRC), told The Heraldnewspaper:
“The right to rent scheme will increase discrimination against ethnic minorities because landlords will simply avoid letting to anyone who they think could be an illegal over-stayer,” he said. “Because of the complexity of immigration law we are concerned that people with only limited leave to remain – who could include entrepreneurs, sponsored employees, and students – could be particularly affected.”
Mr Wilks thinks that the UK government has not complied with its duties under Equalities Act law to make sure the policies are non-discriminatory.
“Amongst our concerns are that the Government has never properly monitored the scheme to see if discrimination has increased and that it has never considered not rolling out the scheme to Scotland and Wales if it were found to be,” he says.
The Home Office in its defence has said that the policy is “fair to those here legally, but firm with those who try to break the rules”.