U.K. Labor Party Warns Right To Rent Scheme Risks Discriminating Against Immigrants

The U.K. government is being accused by the labor party of planning legislation that could lead to what they describe as everyday racism in the housing market. The legislation in question is called the Right to Rent scheme.

According to BBC, the Right to Rent scheme would make it a criminal offense to rent out property to people who are in the country illegally. Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, said that this could cause problems for people, who have foreign sounding names, looking to rent a place.

Andy Burnham,
[Image by Andy Miah/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0]The Residential Landlords Association is a group that represents landlords in both Wales and England. The group also had concerns about the Right to Rent scheme, and they urged adequate support to carry out the checks.

This Tuesday is when the Immigration Bill is returned to the House of Commons. The Immigration Bill includes the Right to Rent scheme. If the right to rent scheme is enacted, then landlords would have to perform a background check on those who are looking to rent from them. This means landlords would have to check the person's passport or visa, as they will have to find out about their immigration status.

If landlords fail to perform checks under the Right to Rent scheme, then they would be facing a criminal offense, which could lead to jail time or a fine. Under the Right to Rent scheme, landlords could face fines that could cost them thousands of dollars. The first offense could have landlords paying out as much as $1,500, while the second offense can more than double.

Burnham said the bill was divisive, deceitful, as well as disproportionate. He said that the Immigration Bill's aim is to make England a hostile environment to those who are in the country illegal. He added that it may even lead to England being an even more hostile place for anyone with a foreign-sounding name.

According to the Daily Mail, the JCWI, short for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, conducted a survey and they found that 42 percent of landlords said the checks would make them less likely to rent out a property to someone who does not have a British passport. The survey involved 31 landlords, according to the Mirror.

Around one in four said that if people had foreign-sounding names or even accents, then they would be reluctant to deal with them. Burnham said that based on this, the Right to Rent scheme could very well lead to widespread discrimination.

Burnham also said the Right to Rent scheme, in its current form, could become the modern equivalent of signs that state no dogs or no blacks. He added that this type of discrimination would be much harder to challenge.

Sign Discriminating Against Others
[Photo by Paul Joseph/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]SNP MP Stuart McDonald said that everyone has concerns about the Right to Rent scheme.
"We also have serious concerns about the disruption that will be caused to citizens going about their lawful business, especially ethnic minority citizens,from extensive new enforcement powers and checks."
Landlords won't have to worry about figuring out how to avoid breaking discrimination rules under the Right to Rent scheme, at least that is what Home Office officials are hoping. Officials at the Home Office have put together 10 pages of guidance on how landlords can avoid breaking the rules in regards to discrimination.

A spokesman said that people with the lawful right to be in the U.K. have never been the target of the Right to Rent scheme.

An expert consultative panel advised on the implementation of the first phase of the Right to Rent scheme in the West Midlands. The panel that advised on the implementation of the first phase of the Right to Rent scheme included those who represent landlords, as well as agents that specialize in offering properties to rent, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The spokesman pointed out that before the Right to Rent scheme started, there were many landlords in West Midlands that were already carrying out similar checks. A lot of them said that it was possible to incorporate the checks involved with the Right to Rent scheme into the procedures that they normally use when vetting tenants.

[Image via Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]