Government changes to renting laws have fuelled housing discrimination

Xenophobia has been increasing in the UK over the past five years, spurred on by fear mongering about immigration whether in regards to the refugee crisis or Brexit.

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Professor Tendayi Achiume from the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary racism said this environment has made ethnic minorities more ‘vulnerable to racial discrimination and intolerance’.

Government legislation has also added to this climate with the ‘Right to Rent’ laws giving landlords incentives and excuses to not rent to immigrants or British, Asian and minority individuals (BAME).

The Right to Rent scheme came into effect across the nation in February 2016 after being tried out in the West Midlands in December 2014.

It was part of the larger Immigration Act 2014.

In theory, it is designed to catch ‘overstayers’ and other illegal immigrants, with landlords facing a penalty of £3,000 per tenant if they are caught with them in their properties.

However, it has had the knock-on effect of landlords discriminating against potential tenants to avoid paying these fines.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) found that 51% of landlords are less likely to rent to non-British tenants while 48% are less likely to rent to those who cannot produce a British passport.

The Retail Landlord Association (RLA) similarly discovered 20% of 50,000 Landlords said they would not rent to EEA nationals and over half expressed reluctance to rent to those on time restricted visas.

These attitudes, in part created by the new laws, have had extremely negative effects on many groups.

The JCWI also found out that many persons who were human trafficking survivors, stateless, asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence or other vulnerable groups are being denied residency.

As is to be expected, these types of vulnerable people often don’t have proper identification documents.

Landlords have also been reported to refuse housing to those with foreign sounding names, resulting in blatant racist discrimination against children of migrant descent.

A less noted side effect is also the discrimination against UK-born British children who grew up in care or whose parents did not apply for British citizenship, meaning they simply cannot prove to the landlords they were born in the UK.

In a Britain with rising anti-migrant sentiment, it seems wrong to allow an individual landlord to deny housing to people who have the clear right to live in the UK.

Many warned about the effects of these policies in 2015 but since then the High Court has ruled that the legislation breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

But this does not seem to deter a Tory party increasingly taken over by anti-immigrant Brexiteers.

These Right to Rent laws, combined the post-Brexit points based migration system, will make Britain a far less desirable place for EU nationals, and migrants in general, to come and live and work.

The government’s pursuit of a hard-right Brexit and a ‘tough’ stance on immigration will continue to have knock-on effects that will hurt the vulnerable most.

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