Migrants and those born overseas account for a sizeable minority of private tenants in England: over one-quarter of households in the private rented sector in England are headed by someone born abroad. The Right to Rent procedures and their consequences (whether intended or not) have the potential to affect many hundreds of thousands of tenant households, and similar numbers of landlords.
The Right to Rent scheme requires landlords of privately rented accommodation to conduct checks on all new tenants to establish if they have a legal right to be in the UK and therefore have the right to rent. The Government undertook a phased implementation of the Scheme, with phase one starting on 1 December 2014. The phase one location comprised the local authorities of Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
To inform further roll-out, an evaluation of the Scheme was commissioned, examining the first 6 months of implementation. It showed that there were no major differences in tenants access to accommodation between the phase one and the non-Right to Rent scheme comparator area. However, comments from a small number of landlords reported during the mystery shopping exercise and focus groups did indicate a potential for discrimination.
Thus, on widening rollout to the rest of England, the Home Office sought to continue examining whether the Right to Rent scheme had affected levels of racial discrimination in the housing market. This was assessed in 2 ways:
- through a mystery shopping exercise whereby mystery shoppers approached private landlords and letting agents to enquire about potential rental properties
- through primary quantitative and qualitative research with private landlords investigating awareness and engagement with the Right to Rent scheme