Last week, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) released a report reviewing the “Right to Rent” scheme.
Right to Rent is part of the panoply of measures introduced by the government to create a “hostile environment” for migrants in the UK. Its aim is to prevent undocumented migrants from accessing rented accommodation by requiring that landlords ensure their tenants’ “regular” immigration status, lest they face sanctions.
MRN has previously voiced concerns (indeed, we are referenced in the report) about Right to Rent, and it appears the ICIBI’s investigation confirms many of our worries.
The scheme is not monitored
To start with, the scheme has involved almost no public consultation, and appears to be wholly unmonitored.
The inspector’s report flags that the Landlords Consultative Panel (LCP), originally given a lead role in monitoring the implementation of Right to Rent, has not visibly engaged in any monitoring activities. In January 2016, the Immigration Minister explained to LCP members that there “were no formal plans […] but the department did keep all policies under review.” The LCP itself was encouraged to “provide feedback about unexpected issues that may surface,” and it was reported that the government had informed the House of Lords that it would “continue to monitor the effects, particularly in relation to discrimination.”
However, the inspection found that the LCP had not met since November 2016; instead, any contact with LCP members is conducted “offline,” and there had been “no Home Office evaluation of Right to Rent since Phase 1, or any attempt to measure its intended impact, beyond some internal discussions of how this might be approached.”
Indeed, the Home Office appears to have little visibility over Right to Rent’s actual implementation. According to the report, since February 2016, Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams in England entered 10,501 residential properties, but made a Right to Rent referral in only 3% of cases. The Home Office’s Interventions and Sanctions Directorate (ISD), which had overall responsibility for the implementation of Right to Rent and other hostile environment measures, appears to have no idea why the referral rate is so low.
This is especially troubling because, as MRN and others have noted, Right to Rent creates significant potential for discrimination, against migrants but also against BAME communities who may be wrongly targeted for checks or raids.
The scheme is ineffective
Overall, as the ICIBI concludes, Right to Rent “has yet to demonstrate its worth as a tool to encourage immigration compliance, with the Home Office failing to coordinate, maximise or even measure effectively its use, while at the same time doing little to address the concerns of stakeholders.”
The ICIBI recommends that the scheme could be improved by “relying more on private citizens than public authorities,” and calls for a wider consultative panel that includes “stakeholders concerned with the rights and interests of migrants.” The Home Office, in its response, has rejected this idea.
While MRN would welcome the involvement of migrants’ organisations in monitoring landlords’ potentially abusive practices, we argue that the Right to Rent scheme should simply be scrapped. Like other hostile environment measures, it risks detering vulnerable people from accessing the most basic needs for survival.