Right to Rent – again

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper with an overview of the Right to Rent scheme.

The briefing paper is some 35 pages but, below is a summary of some important points:

The paper acknowledges that the RtR has proved controversial with concerns raised in a number of areas:

  • The additional burden that the scheme could place on landlords and agents.
  • The potential that the scheme could incentivise landlords and agents to discriminate against certain types of tenants.
  • The scheme could see a rise in homelessness among those that fail the RtR checks.
  • That the scheme has not yet demonstrated its worth in encouraging immigration compliance, and that the Home Office has failed to effectively measure its use.

One might assume that this paper has been produced as a direct consequence of the JCWI legal challenge which the paper refers to. However, the Library is neutral and while the case may have motivated members of the Houses of Parliament to ask for information there is no direct connection. In the paper the Library stresses that that they hope to explain the law in relation to RtR and the obligations placed on a landlord.

The JCWI study which found evidence of discrimination against foreign nationals is referred to in detail in this paper along with the Government’s response. The response to the study is that the JCWI had not provided “clear evidence that discrimination has arisen as a consequence of the scheme.” The Government’s evaluation of the pilot had “found no evidence of discrimination in terms of outcomes for prospective tenants.” They also added however, that they take the issue of discrimination seriously and will meet with the JCWI in order to discuss their findings.

In January 2017 during parliamentary questions Minister, Robert Goodwill, stated that between the start of the RtR scheme and 30 September 2016, 31 individuals identified through the scheme had been removed from the UK.

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published a report earlier this year which is also discussed extensively in the Library paper. The Report stated that 468 referrals were made to the Home Office’s Civil Penalties Compliance Team (CPCT) resulting in the issue of 265 civil penalties and a total levy of £167,520. The Home Office’s Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement teams also entered 10, 501 properties but only made a RtR referral in 3% of cases. The Home Office team were not able to provide an explanation for the low referral rate. The Report’s other conclusions were:

  • Data from the landlord’s checking service and the Helpline suggests both are being underutilised.
  • Doubt has been cast on the methodology of the Home Office’s evaluation of the pilot scheme and evidence of negative impacts with regards to discrimination were “explained away.” There has been no further evaluation of the scheme since November 2016.

The Report concludes that the RtR scheme “is yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance”. Furthermore, that “internally, the Home Office has failed to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use”. Meanwhile, externally it is doing little to address stakeholders’ concerns. The Report recommended that the Home Office create a new RtR consultative Panel.

The Library also set out the Government’s response to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration which is to reject the recommendation of a new RtR consultative panel but instead to reconvene the existing landlords’ consultative panel for the rest of 2018. The Government has also committed to develop and make public plans for the monitoring and evaluation of the RtR measures and acknowledging “the benefits of further monitoring and evaluating of the RtR scheme”.

It is important to note that the briefing paper quotes Minister Baroness Williams that despite all the above issues the Government has “no intention of scrapping the scheme.” Finally, the briefing paper ends with information on the roll-out to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, there is no commitment to when and how this roll out will occur. Instead the briefing paper refers to the objections the scheme has received from the devolved powers and other organisations.

Comment

The briefing paper is a helpful summary of the entire RtR scheme. The House of Commons Library is apolitical and so no specific conclusions about the scheme are drawn. The next big stage for the RtR scheme will be the JCWI Judicial Review hearing on the 18thand 19thDecember.

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