Home Office tries to justify prejudice in ‘Right to Rent’ appeal

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LONDON: The UK Home Office has argued that any racial discrimination caused by the controversial Right to Rent scheme ­– which forces landlords to carry out immigration status checks on their tenants – can be justified.

A hearing into the Government’s appeal against a December 2018 ruling starts today at the Court of Appeal and is expected to last until Friday.

The High Court previously ruled on the scheme, which requires landlords to carry out immigration checks on their tenants, with the threat of a fine or prison should they default. Justice Spencer said this key component of the hostile environment, “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which brought the case, said it was clear that the effect of the judgment meant the scheme itself could not be reformed and should have been dismantled.

However, the Home Office declared that it was “disappointed” with the verdict and launched an appeal. The Government’s legal team will argue that any racial discrimination caused by Right to Rent against black and minority ethnic (BME) British citizens or foreign nationals who have every right to be in the UK, can be justified and that it should not be held responsible for discrimination by landlords caused by it.

JCWI’s barristers Phillippa Kaufmann QC, and Jamie Burton won the argument that the scheme caused discrimination on grounds of race, both nationality and ethnicity.

Now the charity will argue against all the Government’s grounds for appeal, particularly that the Government is plainly responsible for the discriminatory effects of the operation of the scheme, whether or not they are intended.

Chai Patel, legal policy director of the JCWI, said: “Everyone has a right to look for a home for themselves and their children without falling victim to racist immigration rules.“Landlords faced with the risk caused by complex immigration checks, inevitably end up discriminating against people without a British passport, especially ethnic minorities.

 “It must be scrapped so that everyone has a fair shot at finding a flat, whatever the colour of their skin or their passport.”

Solicitor Rowan Smith, from the legal firm Leigh Day, added: “Since the Human Rights Act came into force nearly 20 years ago, the UK courts have only made 42 declarations of incompatibility, which is why this case is so important constitutionally and for those who would otherwise suffer racism in the housing market if the scheme is not overturned.

“It is also why JCWI plan to robustly defend the High Court’s ruling that the right to rent scheme is discriminatory, using recent human rights case-law to further undermine the Government’s appeal.”