The government’s plan to make landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of prospective tenants will result in discrimination against anyone who “appears” foreign, says an independent evaluation by The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).
A trial of the “Right to Rent” scheme in the West Midlands ran from December 2014 to May 2015 and Prime Minister David Cameron said the scheme would not be rolled out nationally until MPs had a chance to discuss it. But in the Queen’s speech in May 2015 it was announced that the scheme would be rolled out nationally before the findings of the Home Office’s own evaluation of the pilot had been made public, despite earlier assurances.
The scheme stipulates that landlords failing to refuse prospective tenants who lack the proper papers could face a £3,000 fine. Critics warned that this would encourage discrimination, with landlords preferring to err on the side of caution – a fear backed up by the JCWI.
It found that the pilot stimulated discrimination even on the grounds of a foreign accent or skin colour. Any failure by tenants to produce documentation, or complications in their immigration status, forced landlords to turn them down – even if they were British citizens or regular migrants.
The report also said that some of the required checks are too confusing for the landlords to understand,
A survey conducted by the JCWI indicated that 77% of landlords were not in favour of the scheme or its national rollout and felt they were being made to act as border guards.
The JCWI fears the situation could get even worse: the government is planning another Immigration Bill that is likely to include further restrictions on tenants and a maximum five-year imprisonment for landlords who fail to implement the scheme consistently.
It also provides landlords with authority to evict tenants lacking proof of legal domicile without court notice.
Although the scheme was intended to deter “irregular migrants”, the JCWI’s data indicates that irregular migrants rarely use the private rental market. So JCWI says the scheme has only made it harder to utilise the market for people who have the legal right to reside in the UK.