The Home Office has lost a legal challenge against Right to Rent laws in the High Court – but where does this leave landlords, letting agents and tenants?
A judge declared Right to Rent in England breached human rights laws and that rolling out the rules to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would break equality laws unless an ‘adequate’ evaluation of the scheme was carried out.
Landlords and letting agents in England who fail to check the residency status of tenants from overseas face unlimited fines or even face jail time.
The Home Office is ‘disappointed’ with the ruling and is considering an appeal, but meanwhile many landlords are left concerned with what seems an unworkable law.
“The pressing question for many will be, what does this ruling mean? Do landlords and agents no longer do the checks? The short answer is that nothing changes for the moment. ,” said David Smith, a partner at property law firm Anthony Gold, writing about the implications of the case.
“The ruling by a High Court judge is that the Right to Rent scheme, in its entirety, is in breach of the Human Rights Act because its inevitable consequence is to lead landlords to discriminate. However, the Human Rights Act does not permit courts to strike down primary legislation, so that legislation will remain in place for the moment and checks still need to be done.”
Smith, who had close involvement with the case, says the government has two options regarding how to respond to the ruling:
Appeal – and the judge has already granted leave to take the case to the Court of Appeal
Introduce new legislation by tacking Right to Rent on to a Brexit Immigration Bill due before MPs soon.
“Until one of these things occurs then things proceed as normal. That said it would be a challenge for the Home Secretary to levy a penalty or commence a prosecution against a landlord or agent who had got their checks wrong as they would be doing so based on a piece of legislation which has been held to be without foundation” said Smith.