Renting rules introduced under Right to Rent at the beginning of February mean that landlords who let property in England will have to carry out checks on tenants’ immigration statuses to establish whether they have the right to be in the UK.
Landlords that are found to be letting a home to tenants who don’t meet the criteria to stay will be fined up to £1,000 for a first offence, and up to £3,000 thereafter. Results from the West Midlands, where this scheme was trialled, suggest that the scheme will certainly lead to an increase in racist profiling of tenants, and to a rise in homelessness.
It is widely known that landlords and letting agents are already less likely to rent a property to a prospective tenant if they’re not white, and while anti-discrimination in laws are in place they are often flouted. The Right to Rent scheme gives them greater reason and opportunity to profile and refuse BME renters.
The scheme has other problems. Approximately 12 million UK residents don’t have passports, which raises concerns that the new rules will make it even harder to people to find homes, on top of extortionate letting fees, high rents, and low-quality housing. The scheme also smacks of hypocrisy.
We’ve been told time and time again by the government that if we make the lives of landlords more difficult, then they’re likely to stop renting their properties and the housing market with suffer. This narrative has been used to justify the crisis in sub-standard homes, including Conservative MPs voting down Labour’s amendment to the Housing Bill earlier in 2016 which would have required private sector landlords to ensure that their properties were fit for human habitation and meet relevant health and safety standards.
We know this narrative to be rubbish, and indeed the Right to Rent scheme will be in effect conscripting landlords in England into controlling UK borders. The government couldn’t bring itself to inconveniencing landlords with the aim of decent housing, but is happy to do so as part of its racist immigration policies, in the name of creating “a hostile environment for illegal migrants”. What we’ll see then is greater misery, poverty and homelessness for migrants in the UK.