The government’s controversial Right to Rent scheme, which requires landlords to verify a tenant’s immigration status, has been ruled by the High Court to be in breach of human rights law.
The scheme was rolled out across England in 2016, under the Immigration Act 2014, and required landlords to check and copy a tenant’s documents to ensure they had a right to rent in the UK.
Landlords who failed to implement the checks risked a penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant.
In a verdict handed down at the High Court on Friday (March 1) Mr Justice Spence ruled the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights, with discrimination by landlords taking place "because of the scheme".
He ruled this discrimination was taking place against non-UK nationals with the right to rent and British ethnic minorities.
The judge said Right to Rent caused landlords to discriminate "where otherwise they would not", something he said was "logical and wholly predictable" when faced with penalties for not abiding by the scheme.
He added: "The safeguards used by the government to avoid discrimination, namely online guidance, telephone advice and codes of conduct and practice, have proved ineffective.
"In my judgment, in those circumstances, the government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the discrimination which is taking place by asserting that such discrimination is carried out by landlords acting contrary to the intention of the scheme."
The Residential Landlords Association, together with human rights campaign group Liberty, intervened in the challenge which was first brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association, said: "Today’s ruling is a damning critique of a flagship government policy.
"We have warned all along that turning landlords into untrained and unwilling border police would lead to the exact form of discrimination the court has found."
Mr Stewart called on the government to accept the decision and scrap the Right to Rent scheme.
Chai Patel, legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "There is no place for racism in the UK housing market and now that the High Court has confirmed Theresa May’s policy actively causes discrimination, parliament must act immediately to scrap it.
"But we all know that this sort of discrimination, caused by making private individuals into border guards, affects almost every aspect of public life – it has crept into our banks, hospitals, and schools.
"Today’s judgment only reveals the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates why the Hostile Environment must be dismantled."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are disappointed with the judgment and we have been granted permission to appeal, which reflects the important points of law that were considered in the case.
"In the meantime, we are giving careful consideration to the judge’s comments."