A “REPULSIVE” government snooping scheme that forces landlords to racially and ethnically discriminate against tenants must be scrapped, campaign groups warned yesterday.
The “Right To Rent” initiative was put in place across England last year and requires landlords to check the immigration status of new tenants by taking copies of documents such as passports or identity cards.
Landlords can be fined up to £3,000 per tenant for not undertaking checks, and face five years in prison for repeated failure to comply.
Legal campaign group Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said that the scheme is “failing on all fronts” and should be stopped before it does any more damage.
It says that landlords who do not wish to discriminate are being forced to do so. British citizens who do not have passports would also be badly affected under the scheme.
Kojo Koram of the campaign group Homes Not Borders, which is taking action against racist and anti-migrant housing policies, described the scheme as “one of the most repulsive laws in recent memory.”
“This is really legislating landlords to discriminate against race and ethnicity,” Mr Koram said.
He is concerned that this will allow rogue landlords to exploit the measures and that it will impact on migrant populations.
He said he was reminded of 1960s and ’70s Britain when landlords put up signs that read “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs.”
Mr Koram said that the legislation ties in with similar measures currently being taken in schools and hospitals. He fears that it contributes to wider “anti-migrant” politics, with Right To Rent being used “as a vehicle for attacking some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
More than half of landlords were less likely to consider letting to residents from overseas due to the policy, research by the JCWI shows.
Its research concluded: “The Right to Rent scheme conscripts ordinary members of civil society into the immigration enforcement arm of the government.
“It does so in such a crude and ham-fisted fashion that it creates structural incentives for them to discriminate unlawfully against foreigners and ethnic minorities.”
It accused the government of being unable to provide evidence of any benefits to the scheme. The report also described guidance by the Home Office to landlords as confusing, calling the procedure “Kafkaesque.”
JCWI chief executive Saira Grant said that Right to Rent was “failing on all fronts.”
She added: “It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position. There is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration.
“It is time to stop the scheme before it does any more damage.”
Last month, Homes Not Borders campaigners told the Star that the difficulties in providing documentation present “another obstacle for those with vulnerable migration statuses preventing them and their families from finding shelter.”
The group said that Right To Rent fulfils a wider government objective to create a “hostile environment” for migrants to make them feel “attacked, despised and under constant surveillance in their daily lives.”