Turning landlords into border guards does lead to discrimination - just as we warned

Posted by Rosie Brighouse on 13 February 2017

Liberty warned from the outset that the Government’s misguided ‘right to rent’ scheme would sow discrimination and division – and today a landmark report from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) reveals that’s exactly what it’s done.

For years, successive governments have been on a mission to make border guards of all of us.

They’ve roped in bank clerks, doctors, teachers, police and employers to check the immigration status of their customers, patients, school pupils, citizens and staff.

And the tentacles with of this obsession have also reached into the housing market.

Since last year, landlords have been compelled to demand proof of the immigration status of prospective tenants under the Government’s ‘right to rent’ scheme, under threat of enormous fines or even a prison sentence.

No passport, no home

Ever since the idea first reared its ugly head, campaigners, MPs and even landlords themselves warned it would lead to discrimination – with no real enforcement benefits for the Home Office.

With the threat of imprisonment hanging over anyone who lets a home to an illegal immigrant, landlords were bound to opt for tenants who look and sound “British”.

With the scheme now in full swing across England, JCWI embarked on a research project, conducting surveys and mystery shopping exercises to gauge the impact it’s having on our communities.

And, unfortunately, it looks like our concerns were well founded.

Creating prejudices

Among their most shocking findings was that certain British people are among the worst-affected groups. Compared with Brits with passports, black and minority ethnic (BME) UK citizens without them were:

  • 26 per cent more likely to be rejected or ignored by landlords 
  • 25 per cent less likely to be offered a viewing
  • 20 per cent less likely to be told the property is available

White British people without passports were 11 per cent more likely to receive a negative response than those with passports.

Significantly, the JCWI found no evidence of racial discrimination between BME and white Brits who did have passports. This isn’t about landlords harbouring personal prejudices – it’s the result of clumsy, discriminatory government law-making.

Dividing communities

The Government claims it’s creating a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants – but, in building a border on every street, they’re dividing whole communities and making life more difficult for us all. British citizens are being denied a place to live in the towns they grew up in.

But, predictably, foreign nationals have been hit hardest. Even those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK were 20 per cent more likely to be ignored or rejected than British people with passports.

Almost half of landlords surveyed by JCWI said right to rent made them less likely to let a home to anyone without a British passport.

Ineffective

All this – and the scheme isn’t even achieving the results the Government wants.

According to JCWI’s research, less than five per cent of people whose details were passed to the Home Office because of the scheme have been removed from the UK.

We warned ministers from the start that right to rent would damage our communities, embed discrimination in our housing market and do nothing to help the Government deport illegal migrants. Now here it is in black and white.

Ministers can’t keep ignoring cold, hard facts – they must shut down this toxic experiment.

Rosie Brighouse

Rosie Brighouse

Liberty
Legal Officer