A scheme requiring British landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants discriminates against foreign nationals and Britons from ethnic minorities, a charity said on Monday (13).
The Right to Rent scheme, part of wider measures by the British government to tackle illegal immigration, threatens landlords and letting agents with a maximum £3,000 fine or up to five years in prison if they fail to check the passport or immigration documents of tenants.
A survey by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a charity campaigning for migrant and refugee rights, found 51 per cent of landlords said they would be less likely to rent to a foreign national under the scheme.
In a test conducted by JCWI of Britons without passports, an applicant from an ethnic minority was turned down by 58 per cent of landlords – 14 per cent more often than a white British applicant in the same situation.
Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, said the scheme was clearly discriminatory and there was no evidence it reduced “irregular immigration”.
“Creating a so-called ‘hostile environment’ that targets vulnerable men, women and children is bad enough, implementing a scheme that traps and discriminates against British citizens is absurd,” Grant said in a statement.
A Home Office spokesperson said it had been monitoring the scheme and found no evidence of discrimination.
The Right to Rent scheme, introduced in February 2016, aims to prevent illegal immigrants from establishing a settled life in the UK, which could slow the process of deportation, according to the Home Office website.
The scheme, which operates across England, is set to be extended to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland this year.
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Brian Paddick said the party in the House of Lords “vehemently opposed these measures because we believed that unlawful discrimination would be the unintended consequence. This research shows that our worst fears have been realised.
“The research shows it is almost impossible for the most vulnerable in our society, including those legitimately seeking asylum, to find a home to rent.”
Stuart McDonald, immigration spokesperson for Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party, called for an immediate halt to the “toxic” scheme which he said turned landlords into de facto immigration officers.
McDonald said Britain’s immigration minister had failed to provide any evidence of the scheme’s effectiveness. The Home Office spokesperson confirmed it was continuing in negotiations with the Scottish parliament and other authorities to roll out the scheme.
The report said asylum seekers, stateless persons, and victims of modern day slavery were the worst effected by the scheme.