A coalition of the (un)willing?
The convergence of landlord and renter
interests in the “right to rent”
Law School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Purpose –The Immigration Act (2014)at Part 3 established a new regime with private landlords incurring
penalties (and potentially criminal liability from 1 November 2016) if they allow a person disqualiﬁed, by
reason of migrationstatus, to reside in a property as their onlyor main home. Known colloquially as the “right
to rent”, the provisions restrict access to accommodation and impose onerous duties onlandlords to check
tenants’migrationstatus. The purpose of this paper is to considerhow a change in the emphasis of regulation
introduced by the provisions,resulted in the coalescence of opposition by landlords and renters in a way that
historicallywould have been unthinkable.
Design/methodology/approach –Using thelens of Foucault’s governmentali ty, it is possible to see how
Government soughtto shift the locus of control from itself to the landlord,which through its legislative and
policy stanceresulted in such ﬁerce oppositionas evidenced by the ﬁrst instance challengeto the provisions in
R(JointCouncil for the Welfare of Immigrants)vSSfor the Home Department EWHC 452 (Admin).
Findings –The focus ofregulation introduced by the provisions resultedin the coalescence of opposition by
landlords and renters in a way that historically would have been unthinkable. Landlords and renters are
usually thoughtof as being in opposition, but not so here. This may offer hope for more productiveregulatory
outcomes where both parties work together. It may also suggest that encroaching on the notion of private
rights and interestsin law could result in counterproductive consequences.
Research limitations/implications –Unlike Foucault’s notion of surveillance and control,
governmentalityshifts the emphasis from a hierarchical conception of governmentto practices including self
(imposed) governance –with here, the landlord being required to act as a proxy for border agents. This
suggests that there may exist boundaries beyond which, in a given context, it might be unwise for
Government to step withoutadverse consequences. Foucault’s ideas provide a startingpoint, but do not give
us all of the answers.
Practical implications –The coalescence of opposing actors can be a signiﬁcant force to challenge
government given the extent of theirknowledge of the given context. It may also suggest a route to a more
collaborativeform of regulation.
Originality/value –A novel theoretical take on an issue of concern raised by practitioners and interest
Keywords Human rights, Regulation, Housing
Paper type Research paper
In the summer of 2018, the JointCouncil for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) obtained leave
to challenge Government’s right to rent policy, which essentially constrains the right of
unlawful migrants to gain access to accommodation in the private rented sector (PRS). The
application (heard in December 2018), was made on the basis of a human rights challenge
seeking a declaration under s4 Human Rights Act 1998 that the provisions were
The author is grateful to Kate McCarthy (University of Chester) for her assistance.
Right to rent
Received29 March 2019
Accepted8 April 2019
Journalof Property, Planning and
Vol.11 No. 2, 2019
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