Theresa May’s new housing minister introduced a controversial policy widely criticised for pushing landlords to rent to “white tenants with British-sounding names”.
James Brokenshire, who was May’s trusted ally as immigration minister under her leadership of the Home Office, introduced “right to rent” checks, which forced landlords to investigate their tenants’ immigration status.
Brokenshire was announced on Monday as the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, after the previous office-holder, Sajid Javid, was made Home Secretary in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation over the Windrush debacle.
Under the “right to rent” rule, rolled out across England 2015, buy-to-let property owners were made responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants, or face a £3,000 fine.
It formed part of the Government’s attempts to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, but critics said the changes made landlords “border guards”.
Campaigners, including Green co-leader Caroline Lucas and the pressure group, Generation Rent, also said the changes “will drive discrimination, encouraging otherwise fair-minded landlords and agents to let to white tenants with British-sounding names, just to reduce the likelihood of additional bureaucracy from the Home Office”.
At the time, Brokenshire said: “We are building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system or flout the law.
“The right to rent checks will be quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here.
“They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.”
It comes as questions continue to swirl about the Government’s shocking treating of Windrush Britons, with scores of people who have lived and worked in the UK for decades being denied NHS treatment, benefits and even facing deportation.
Brokenshire has also served as Northern Ireland Secretary and played a key role in the Prime Minister striking a deal with the DUP, after the Tories lost their majority in Parliament at the general election last year.