The High Court has ruled that using landlords as immigration officers breaches human rights law

Good luck. Image: Getty.

The Right to Rent was bad for landlords and tenants alike, write the Residential Landlords Association.

On Friday, the High Court ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme, a key part of its “hostile environment” approach to illegal immigration, breaches human rights law.

Under the Right to Rent private landlords have, for the past few years, been responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants – with the prospect of prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK.  Academics at Oxford University suggest that the foreign-born population is almost three times as likely to be in the private rental sector compared to the UK-born population.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which has opposed the policy from its very inception, joined with Liberty to intervene in a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), to have the policy declared as incompatible with human rights law. The grounds were that it was leading to discrimination against non-UK nationals who might be in the country legitimately and British ethnic minorities.

Such concerns were highlighted starkly in recent research by the RLA which found that the fear of getting things wrong led to 44 per cent of private landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport. It found also that 53 per cent of landlords were less likely to rent to those with limited time to remain in the UK, whilst 20 per cent said that they were less likely to consider letting property to EU or EEA nationals. Similar findings have been found by the JCWI. Significantly, during the course of the case government research emerged which confirmed a significant proportion of landlords were unwilling to rent to people without British passports.


Delivering his verdict in the High Court today, Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it led to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities.

In a damming verdict, Mr Justice Spencer concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place “because of the scheme.” He went on to state that “the government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity”.

The judge continued that the Right to Rent “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not”, describing such discrimination by landlords a being “logical and wholly predicable” when faced with potential sanctions and penalties for getting things wrong.

The ruling comes following a report published last year by David Bolt, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which concluded that the Right to Rent has “yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance” and that the Home Office was “failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders”.

The RLA has written to the Home Secretary seeking an urgent meeting and is calling on the Government to accept the decision and scrap the Right to Rent entirely.

Landlords should not be used as untrained border police, papering over cracks in the existing border force regime. Ministers should scrap what is a bad policy and consider what else can be done to sensibly manage migration without causing unnecessary friction between tenants and landlords.

John Stewart is policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association. It tweets @RLA_News.

 
 
 
 

Does it matter that TfL are renaming White Hart Lane station Tottenham Hotspur?

New White Hart Lane. Image: Getty.

Pretend for a moment that you’re travelling in the London of 1932. You’re taking the Piccadilly Line northbound and alight at Gillespie Road station. The name should be obvious: it’s inscribed in bespoke brown tiling on the platform.

But that 31 October, following an intense campaign by the eponymous football club, the London County Council changed the station’s name to Arsenal (Highbury Hill). The area’s growing association with the name “Arsenal” ended in a lengthy negotiation that changed maps, signs and train tickets alike. Football had acquired so much power that it changed the name of not just a Tube station but an entire suburb, even before the era of Wenger or the Emirates.

Now the spectre of name changes is on the horizon once again. As Tottenham Hotspur FC inches closer to completing its new stadium, the club is clamouring for a renamed Overground station. Despite the fact the new stadium is located on almost exactly the same site as the old just off White Hart Lane, and fans have long been calling the scaffolding-laden mess “New White Hart Lane”, the club’s executive director is adamant that the station’s existing name cannot stand. White Hart Lane station, on the Overground line leaving Liverpool Street, is set to be renamed “Tottenham Hotspur”, at a cost to the club of £14.7m.

Little has been made of the fact that this peculiar PR kerfuffle is tied to Spurs’ failure to convince Nike to sponsor the venue. Some sources have even claimed that the sponsorship is yet to be finalised because it is somehow contingent on the renaming of the Overground station; beyond the ridiculous Johnson-era vanity project that was the Emirates Air Line, it seems improbable that TfL will allow any more corporate-flavoured information pollution. There will be no “Nike Stadium” station on the way to Enfield, much as there is no “Emirates” on the way to Cockfosters, especially if public consultation gets a look in.

The scene of the crime. Image: TfL.

But there’s a problem with the new name, all the same. “White Hart Lane” already means “football stadium”, in the same way Loftus Road or Stamford Bridge do. Changing it to “Tottenham Hotspur” risks opening the floodgates to an “O2 North Greenwich” or a “Virgin Euston” at some point in future, names as banal as there are dystopian. The Greater London Authority has promised to spend the £14.7m fee on community programmes in the local area – but that’s not much money to set the precedent that a private company can mess about with the Tube map.


What’s more, as CityMetric has often observed, there are plenty of station names across London that could do with a tidy up. Picking one that’s perfect already and asking for £14.7m to change it is adding insult to injury. How much would it cost a community group if they asked to change the name of Goodge Street to Fitzrovia? Why does a vast corporate entity backed by international sponsors and thousands of season ticket holders get to set the standard?

Back in Arsenal’s day, changing names on the Tube must have been easy; changes could be accommodated gradually without bothering the every day traveller. But in our world of online information, maps and apps, name changes are rather more complicated.

The question is – if TfL can bring itself to balefully accept this particular proposition, why can’t it accept ours? Why sort out a single non-issue on the Tube Map when you can catch lots of real ones in one go? A day’s pandemonium might just be a price worth paying to fix the Bethnal Greens problem once and for all.