New Government guidance – issued in the wake of a High Court ruling that its ‘right to rent’ policy is illegal – is leaving landlords open to prosecution, according to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
It is calling for the scheme to be scrapped entirely and has written to the Home Secretary. Earlier this year, the High Court found that ‘right to rent’, which requires landlords to carry out immigration checks, was incompatible with human rights law. It was found to be directly causing racial discrimination in the housing rental market.
Mr Justice Spencer said: “The measures have a disproportionately discriminatory effect and I would assume and hope that those legislators who voted in favour of the scheme would be aghast to learn of its discriminatory effect.”
But now the Government has issued new guidance for people from certain countries –Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States – known as B5JSSK nationals. For these nationals, according to the new guidance, if they are staying for six months or less landlords need only to check their passports and airline tickets as proof they can rent a property. They don’t need to have a visa.
However, the RLA says a ticket and passport do not meet requirements held in the legally binding Code of Practice, agreed by Parliament, that calls for clear evidence from the Home Office that the holder has the right to reside in the UK permanently or for a limited period. The newly issued guidance provides no legal cover for landlords if a tenant were to stay longer than six months.
RLA policy director David Smith said: “This represents a new low in the sorry saga of the Right to Rent. Having already been ruled to be discriminatory by the High Court, the Government is now putting out guidance, which could leave landlords open to prosecution.
“It reinforces once against that the Right to Rent policy needs to go and go now.”
Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott MP said: "Many of us have long argued that the government's demands for background and immigration status checks by landlords was inherently unjust. Now landlords themselves argue that government guidance leaves them open to prosecution.
"The High Court has already ruled that this legislation is discriminatory. It shows that the government's 'hostile environment' policy is still in full force. Labour demands that this policy ends, and we will certainly end it in office."