The government is being challenged in the High Court over a new policy that forces landlords in England to check the UK immigration status of their potential tenants.
The policy was initially introduced as part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s 2015 measures and requires landlords to check whether a tenant is legally allowed to rent property within England.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which is behind the launch of the legal challenge, has warned that forcing landlords to conduct the checks is an incentive for discrimination and breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. Subsequently, the council is demanding that the policy be reviewed before it is taken any further.
According to Chai Patel, legal policy director at JCWI, the policy will encourage a system that incentivises racist behaviour among landlords, and he went on to accuse the government of failing to monitor how it will work in practice.
Specifically, Mr Patel argues that the policy could encourage landlords with “no desire” to discriminate to choose people with British passports in a bid to avoid fines.
“It’s systemic discrimination. At a time when lots of people can’t find housing, ethnic minorities and people who are not British are being put at a further disadvantage,” he said. “That might mean people become homeless, it might mean they get forced into accommodation with landlords who are exploiting them.”
Mr Patel went on to suggest that the government should “at the very least” evaluate the scheme before it is extended to ensure it does not promote prejudice.