United Kingdom – High Court finds Right to Rent scheme is discriminatory and unlawful

Date: 
Friday, March 1, 2019

On 1 March, the UK High Court ruled that the government’s Right to Rent scheme is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The scheme, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, was introduced in England in 2016 on the basis of the 2014 Immigration Act. Failing to make such a check could give rise to both a penalty and a criminal offence with up to 5 years' imprisonment. The applicant argued that this scheme was incompatible with Articles 8 and 14 ECHR.

First, the Court reiterated the particularly unjust nature of racial discrimination according to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and noted that the threshold of Article 8 ECHR in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR should be low. Having established that the Scheme fell under Article 8, the Court clarified that although this provision does not give anyone the right to a home, it does guarantee the right to seek to obtain a home without suffering discrimination. In this respect, it found that the evidence submitted by the applicant, taken together with relevant reports by  NGOs and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, strongly showed that landlords are discriminating against potential tenants on grounds of nationality and ethnicity and that such discrimination was indeed prompted by the existence of this scheme.

The judge took note of the Government’s arguments justifying the Scheme but attached particular importance to the fact that the Scheme in itself included anti-discriminatory measures which had been proved ineffective. Moreover, any arguments in support of the Scheme were counter-balanced by a well-established domestic and European jurisprudence condemning racial discrimination in an absolute manner. Lastly, the Scheme’s necessity in terms of immigration control was also unjustified, as the evidence showed that it had had little or no effect on immigration control.

Therefore, the Court ruled that sections 20-37 of the 2014 Immigration Act, which provided the legal basis for the Scheme, are incompatible with Article 14 ECHR in conjunction with Article 8 ECHR.

 

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.                                                       

 

Keywords: 
Discrimination
Family unity (right to)