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Government to defend discriminatory rental scheme in constitutionally important Court of Appeal case

Leigh Day is representing the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in an important challenge to the Home Office

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13 January 2020

The Home Office is to argue in a hearing next week that any racial discrimination caused by the controversial Right to Rent Scheme can be justified. The hearing will begin on Wednesday 15 January 2020 and is listed for two and a half days.

The Court of Appeal is due to hear the Government’s appeal against the December 2018 landmark High Court ruling on the Scheme, which requires landlords to carry out immigration checks on their tenants, in default of which they can be fined or sent to prison. Mr Justice Spencer ruled in December that this key component of the Hostile Environment “does not merely provide the occasion or opportunity for private landlords to discriminate but causes them to do so where otherwise they would not” [para 105]. JCWI was clear that the effect of the judgment meant that the Scheme could not be reformed and should have been dismantled. 
 
The Home Office declared itself ‘disappointed’ with the High Court’s verdict and launched an appeal. The Government’s legal team will argue in its appeal that any racial discrimination against BME British citizens or foreign nationals who have every right to be in the UK caused by the scheme can be justified and that it should not be held responsible for discrimination by landlords caused by the scheme.
 
The successful challenge was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), represented by law firm Leigh Day and barristers Phillippa Kaufmann QC at Matrix Chambers and Jamie Burton at Doughty Street Chambers. JCWI won the argument in their legal case that the Scheme caused discrimination on grounds of race (both nationality and ethnicity).
 
JCWI will argue against all the Government’s grounds for appeal in their response, particularly that the government is plainly responsible for the discriminatory effects of the operation of the Scheme, whether they are intended or not. 
 
Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the organisation which brought the original challenge to the Scheme, said:
 
“Everyone has a right to look for a home for themselves and their children without falling victim to racist immigration rules. Landlords faced with the risk caused by complex immigration checks, inevitably end up discriminating against people without a British passport, especially ethnic minorities. It must be scrapped so that everyone has a fair shot at finding a flat, whatever the colour of their skin or their passport.”
 
Rowan Smith, solicitor from law firm Leigh Day, added:
 
“Since the Human Rights Act came into force nearly 20 years ago, the UK courts have only made 42 declarations of incompatibility, which is why this case is so important constitutionally and for those who would otherwise suffer racism in the housing market if the Scheme is not overturned. It is also why JCWI plan to robustly defend the High Court’s ruling that the right to rent scheme is discriminatory, using recent human rights case-law to further undermine the Government’s appeal.”

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