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THERESA MAY'S hostile environment for migrants “encourages landlords to commit race discrimination” and risks fuelling homelessness, the High Court heard today.
Charities are targeting the Home Office’s Right to Rent scheme, which requires landlords in England to check the nationality of their tenants.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said the scheme “conscripts landlords as border officials on pain of imprisonment.”
The charity has lodged a judicial review against the controversial Home Office policy, warning that it risked a rise in homelessness and racial discrimination.
JCWI argues that the Right to Rent scheme places a burden on landlords and landladies to spend time and even money on checking a tenant’s nationality.
“It provides a commercial reason for rational landlords to discriminate on the grounds of race where otherwise there may have been none,” lawyers for the JCWI have told the court.
The case is being supported by a coalition of groups, including the Residents and Landlords Association, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Liberty.
The Right to Rent scheme was first introduced when Ms May was Home Secretary in 2014. It places the responsibility on landlords to make sure tenants from abroad are eligible to rent property in Britain.
Any landlords found to be letting property to those without the “right to rent” are liable to fines and even imprisonment. They are also required to take steps to evict the tenant.
Charities and voluntary organisations have found evidence that the scheme has caused a rise in homelessness.
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants legal policy director Chai Patel said: “Sajid Javid promised he would learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal, which left many thousands of legal immigrants to the UK destitute, detained and even deported.
“But he is ignoring our evidence that requiring landlords to check immigration status does not work and causes exactly the kinds of problems that the Windrush generation faced.
“Not only is he ignoring our evidence, he is fighting us in court to stop the Home Office from being required to do its own evaluation into whether the scheme is harming ethnic minorities and foreign nationals with every right to rent property.”
He added that the new Home Secretary “has clearly learnt nothing from Theresa May’s mistakes.”
Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day who is working on the challenge, said: “The evidence is clear: the government’s policy is encouraging a significant number of landlords to refuse to rent to those without a British passport.
“As a result, non-British people living in the UK, and many from the BAME community, are treated less favourably due to their nationality.
“This represents a key plank of the hostile environment created by government, which has already had a hugely damaging impact on UK society through the Windrush scandal.”
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