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Right to Rent Scheme

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2019

The right to rent scheme was launched to prevent illegal migrants from accessing the private rental sector, and to tackle unscrupulous landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants, sometimes in very poor conditions.

In 2016, a requirement was introduced for landlords and lettings agents in England to take reasonable steps to check that they are renting only to someone who has a right to do so.

These checks apply equally to everyone seeking to rent property and there are penalties for landlords who fail to complete them and who are later found to have rented to someone without a right to be in the UK.

The law was and remains absolutely clear that discriminatory treatment on the part of anyone carrying out these checks is unlawful. And the right to rent legislation provides for a code of practice which sets out what landlords are expected to do.

The scheme was trialled in the west midlands. This trial was evaluated in full, with the results published in October 2015. They included 539 responses to online surveys, 12 focus groups, 36 one-to-one interviews, and a mystery shopping exercise involving 332 encounters.

The Home Office evaluation found there was no systemic discrimination on the basis of race.

It is therefore disappointing that, on Friday last week, the right to rent scheme was declared incompatible with the European convention on human rights. The High Court ruled that Parliament’s decision to impose right to rent checks is outweighed by the potential for race discrimination by those with the duty to perform the required checks.

We disagree with this finding and the Home Office has been granted permission to appeal all aspects of the judgment.

In the meantime, the provisions passed by this House in 2014 remain in force. There are no immediate changes to the operation of the policy. Landlords and letting agents are still obliged to conduct right to rent checks as required in legislation. They must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their colour or where they come from.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has previously said, we are looking at options for a further evaluation of the operation of the scheme. As part of this, we will look to develop further mechanisms to monitor the operation of the scheme to provide ongoing assurance about its impact.

The Home Secretary has written to the independent adviser on lessons learned from Windrush, Wendy Williams, to draw her attention to the High Court’s findings.

The review is identifying the key legislative, policy and operational failures which resulted in members of the Windrush generation becoming entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants.

The Right to Rent Consultative Panel will meet again next month to look at the operation of the scheme and the guidance provided to landlords and lettings agents.

The Government are committed to tackling discrimination in all its forms and to having an immigration system which provides control, but which is also fair, humane and fully compliant with the law. This includes ensuring illegal migrants, with no right to be in the UK, are not able to access work, benefits and public services.