It has been announced that the Right to Rent legislation is to go to Judicial Review at the High Court, as the worth of the legislation is challenged.
Private sector landlords are used to legislative changes which appear to marginalise their role in society; they are blamed for their tenants anti-social behaviour; they are treated as the baddie when their tenants do not pay the rent; attempts to evict their tenants see them castigated and treated as Pariah’s, feeding off their tenants and living lives of luxury themselves, ignorant of the pressures that they live under and the hard work which has allowed them to provide decent homes for the poorest.
Unhappy as they so often are with legislation, they have been particularly incensed by the Immigration Bill 2015 and the Right to Rent legislation, which has asked landlords to act as Border Agency staff, putting the responsibility on them to ensure their tenants have the right to rent rather than Government officers paid to do so. Just to make sure landlords comply with the legislation, there is the threat of a hefty fine for those landlords who make a mistake.
The Right to Rent legislation was part of the then Home Secretary, (now Prime Minister) Theresa May’s, plan to create a hostile environment for Immigrants. Landlords were told that they must check the right of every prospective tenant to rent; to ensure that no-one took a tenancy they were not entitled to, every incoming tenant had to provide proof that they could rent.
For persons coming from abroad, with unfamiliar paperwork, it has become more difficult to obtain accommodation; landlords do not want to find they have a tenant who could bring a hefty fine down on their heads. This plays into the hands of the racist landlord, now able to refuse a foreign tenant with impunity.
As landlords know they can be prosecuted if they know or have reason to believe the person applying for accommodation does not have the right to rent, landlords have chosen to accept a British passport as the proof; 42 per cent, it has been estimated, would be unwilling to rent to someone without a British passport.
As 17 per cent of UK residents do not hold a passport, what happens if they wish to move to a new house? They may not have a passport because they have no wish to leave our shores, no interest in seeing the other side of the Channel or beyond; perhaps in some, though not all cases, the poorest and most vulnerable.
This is legislation meant to target a specific group, that of illegal immigrant, which will have an equally punitive effect on those that have few opportunities in life and now find their choices even more limited.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has asked the High Court to rule on a Judicial Review which may change the law as it stands, with support from various factions. Most telling are the comments from David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.
His comments on the policy are that it has ‘yet to demonstrate its’ worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance’ – that is that it will not discourage those who are desperate to make a new life and escape war, hunger and the other factors that prompt them to become refugees.
Nor will it discourage those landlords who will happily house the immigrants, four or more to a room, in sheds and garages.
If the Judicial Review succeeds, private landlords may feel less pressured and more able to concentrate on managing their tenancies in a humane manner. Landlords want decent tenants and often to help the vulnerable and those entitled to accommodation, rather than feel forced to act in a discriminatory fashion to ensure they are not penalised.
This Judicial Review is an ideal opportunity for the High Court to prove it is not ‘an ass’.
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