Camden Community Law Centre is mounting a legal challenge to a key component of the government's Hostile Environment policies: the so-called 'Right to Rent'.
The Right to Rent requires landlords to check whether tenants or potential tenants have the right to be in the UK. The measure, introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2016, introduces fines of up to £3,000 and even prison sentences of up to 5 years for landlords found to be letting out homes to migrants living in the UK unlawfully.
Law Centres have always considered this policy to be problematic. Firstly, it restricts what is a universal human right to adequate housing. Secondly, it ignores mistakes that the Home Office makes with regard to immigration enforcement. The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has already admitted that 10% of Hostile Environment enforcement was in error.
A third problem is that the Right to Rent delegates responsibility for immigration control from the state to landlords. In doing so it effectively makes them into border guards, but without the knowledge required. The Inspector of Borders, already looking at Right to Rent, has admitted last October that he cannot meaningfully assess the policy's unintended consequences.
Such consequences include increased homlessness or discrimination against (certain or all) migrants when they come to rent properties. Yet there are already indications that this is taking place. Surveyed last year about the policy, many landlords have said that it would make them less likely to let homes to migrants altogether.
The Law Centre is challenging this policy through one of its clients. The woman came to the UK legally as a student. When she applied to extend her visa the Home Office lost her passport. So far she has been unable to replace the passport in her country of origin. Just in her time of need, her landlord evicted her because he was told she does not have permission to stay in the UK. She is now applying to stay in the UK as a stateless person.
This challenge is conducted alongside another, similar one, led by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI). The two organisations are supporting each other's challenge. Both challenges are also supported by the Residential Landlords Association.
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