Housing minister seeks clarification over proposed roll-out of Right to Rent in Scotland
Scotland’s housing minister is to seek a meeting with the UK Government regarding the introduction of its ‘Right to Rent’ scheme after the High Court in London ruled the law was in breach of human rights legislation.
Under the ‘Right to Rent’ law, landlords are faced with the prospect of prosecution if they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” that the property they are letting is occupied by someone who does not have the right to rent in the UK. It was introduced by Theresa May as home secretary as a key plank of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.
While the scheme applies to the entire UK, it has been rolled out in England only so far. It would be for the UK Government to decide when it should be introduced in Scotland.
Earlier this month the High Court ruled the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis it leads to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities. The High Court also ruled it would be illegal to roll out the scheme in Scotland.
Now Kevin Stewart MSP has written to the minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes, asking for a meeting to discuss the UK Government’s intentions regarding Right to Rent in Scotland.
Mr Stewart said: “The High Court ruling is one we welcome as this is a policy we do not want imposed on Scotland. I’m now seeking clarification from the minister on her future plans and hope she will pay attention to the ruling and end Right to Rent.”
Full text of letter:
Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP
Minister of State for Immigration
Last week’s ruling by the High Court, which determined that the UK Government’s ‘Right to Rent’ scheme breaches the European Convention on Human Rights on the basis that it leads to discrimination against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities, was a damming one.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Spencer concluded that discrimination by landlords was taking place ‘because of the scheme’ and that ‘the Government’s own evaluation failed to consider discrimination on grounds of nationality at all, only on grounds of ethnicity’. He went on to explicitly state that it would be illegal to roll it out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation.
I have, on numerous occasions over the last few years, highlighted to your predecessors the Scottish Government’s deep concerns regarding the Right to Rent Scheme. Despite it relating to a reserved matter, it would directly impact on matters that are fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and, to date, consultation with both the Scottish Government and key Scottish stakeholders has been limited.
My previous correspondence set out this Government’s concerns that the Right to Rent policy would lead to some landlords operating in a discriminatory way against prospective tenants who are not UK citizens; marginalise vulnerable migrants; and place additional pressures on local authorities.
Furthermore, during the passage of the Immigration Bill in 2015, Scottish stakeholders issued a ‘Statement of Concern’, highlighting the deeply inappropriate burden on private landlords, and many housing association landlords, to conduct complex immigration document checks.
Given the concerns we have highlighted to the UK Government in the past, I very much welcome the ruling by Mr Justice Spencer that the Right to Rent policy does indeed breach human rights laws.
I am sure you are aware that following the ruling, a number of key stakeholders including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the Residential Landlords Association and the Scottish Association of Landlords have all called for the UK Government to accept the decision and scrap the Right to Rent policy.
In light of this, I would welcome an early meeting with you to discuss what the UK Government’s intentions now are in relation to the Right to Rent Scheme being extended to Scotland.