Liberty joins challenge against Government’s scheme that turns landlords into border guards

Posted by Lara ten Caten on 21 December 2018

Liberty this week joined a challenge against the Government’s so called “right to rent scheme”, a hostile environment policy that is increasing the risk of homelessness this winter.  

The proceedings, brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Ms Katuna Goloshvili, with Liberty, the Residential Landlord’s Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening, started at the High Court on December 18. 

Getting a roof over one’s head is no easy matter, in particular when housing is in short supply and rental prices are on the rise.  In the winter, it could be a matter of life or death.  But the government have decided that the correct way to compel migrants to return home is to turn landlords into border guards. Landlords are opposing the scheme, which makes them complicit in the hostile environment and puts them at risk of heavy fines and imprisonment.

Who is affected?

British citizens, EEA and Swiss nationals are all deemed to have right to rent. However, ascertaining who has right to rent and who does not is no easy matter. The government (and Ms Goloshvili herself) did not realise that she had had the right to rent until nearly six months after possession proceedings had been issued against her.

But Ms Goloshvili was lucky. Even though her landlord did not need a possession order to evict her, he applied to court for one. This gave Ms Goloshvili time to seek advice to defend herself and to challenge this wretched policy in court – others might not be so lucky.

JCWI have commissioned research that shows that British people with no passport are finding very hard to rent a property as a result of the right to rent checks.   

Show me your passport!

It is clear that faced with fines[1] and the possibility of being blacklisted for renting for people who do not have the right to rent, and of potentially being sued for unlawfully evicting someone, landlords now prefer to rent to those who do have a passport.

The scheme does not force landlords to request a passport. But what would you do if you were a landlord with an empty flat, lots of people asking to view it, some of whom did not have a British passport? 

This scheme is a continuation of the Government’s disastrous hostile environment,  that has resulted in scandals such as Windrush. This policy is similarly nasty and bound to affect some of the most vulnerable families this winter, many of whom will have every right to be in this country. This legislation must be scrapped from the statute book.

 

[1] Landlords can be fined up to £3,000 per person who does not have a right to rent  found at a property

Lara ten Caten Liberty

Lara ten Caten

Liberty
Lawyer