Given the increase in race-related hate crime before and since June’s referendum, housing organisations need to be even more alert to possible discrimination in housing than they were before. CIH has already warned about the likely effects in the private rented sector of the new ‘right to rent’ document checks that began in England in February. Recently we’ve produced new guidance for housing associations on how they can make the checks while avoiding unlawful discrimination. And we provide guidance to people who have been discriminated against in housing as well as to those who advise them. We plan soon to issue a new ‘How to…’ guide on tackling racially motivated hate crime.
There is no doubt that the introduction of document checks has increased the incentive for landlords to discriminate, even if only to avoid the extra cost and delays of making the checks, which aren’t straightforward. It is far easier to give preference to potential tenants who can show a UK passport than someone who might have an unfamiliar travel document requiring a call to the Home Office to verify it. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which researched the impact of the pilot scheme of document checks that took place in the West Midlands, found worrying signs of discrimination against people who looked ‘foreign’. Unfortunately, although the ‘right to rent’ scheme is now running England-wide, and may well be extended to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in due course, there appears to be no further government monitoring of its impact.