In this blog, Sharon Leahy and Trudi Tokarczyk (University of St Andrews) and Kim McKee (University of Stirling) outline their research about the ‘Right to Rent’ and ask for input from landlords.

We have collated this HSA Blog entry to seek respondents to our Right to Rent Private Landlord Survey.  The Right to Rent is one facet of a suite of legislative measures adopted in the UK since 2014 to create a hostile environment for “illegal” migrants. The combined aim of these measures is to deny undocumented migrants’ access to a range of services, with the expectation that this will lead them to leave the UK, forcibly or voluntarily.

The Immigration Act 2014 and the Immigration Act 2016 outline the provisions that constitute the Right to Rent scheme. These measures introduce mandatory immigration document checks for private landlords of prospective tenants, prior to signing tenancy agreements. This means that all housing associations, rental agents, and private landlords, including individuals taking in lodgers, are obliged to check the details of those named on tenancy agreements and those who sublet property. It also introduces checks to banks, building societies, marriage registries, and the DVLA, which aim to screen out undocumented migrants from utilizing their services.

The Immigration Act is a focal piece of legislation for the Conservative Party’s political agenda with respect to reducing in-migration (Leahy, McKee & Crawford, 2016). It does so by extending immigration policing and exclusion to the British public. Leahy (2014) has highlighted that the use of landlords in the securitization of the State provides further evidence to support Balibar’s (2002) claim that the “border is everywhere”. A theory buttressed by a number of studies highlighting that border policing in Britain is no longer demarcated to external borders and is increasingly being performed with the assistance of a range of unorthodox partners, including the public (Aliverti, 2014; Webber, 2014; Leahy, McKee & Crawford, 2018).

Since the Right to Rent provisions were first announced concerns have been raised that the scheme creates a discriminatory environment for all migrants, as well as for British citizens who lack documentation and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (‘BAME’) groups who may be subject to racial profiling. The scheme has turned the private rental market into a new border. In theory, everyone now has to prove to private landlords and their agents that they have the right to live in the UK (JCWI, 2015; 2017). Landlords act as non-state border agents, performing the border through these practices of surveillance. This has wide-ranging impacts and will serve to further demonise all migrants, even those who have legal rights to be in the UK, providing another facet in the ever-expanding State securitisation process. Concerns have been raised that this may leave the undocumented unable to find appropriate accommodation.

Building on our recent HSA sponsored event on the ‘Impact of the UK Immigration Act on Housing and Public Services’, our study aims to review the implications of the ‘right to rent’ scheme. Using interviews with key representatives working with migrants and landlords, we aim to gain a more in-depth understanding of the key issues.

We have launched a survey for private sector landlords to gain a better understanding of their awareness and perspectives on the Right to Rent provisions. We would welcome landlords’ opinions on this scheme, and the role that they must play to maintain it. The survey link can be accessed here, and will help us gain a better picture of landlords’ perspectives on this key issue.

For more information about the study, please contact:

Sharon Leahy & Trudi Tokarczyk (University of St Andrews) & Kim McKee (University of Stirling)


Aliverti, A. (2014). Enlisting the public in the policing of immigration. British Journal of Criminology, 55(2), 215-230.

Balibar, É. (2002). Politics and the other scene. Verso.

Crawford, J., Leahy, S., & McKee, K. (2016). The Immigration Act and the ‘Right to Rent’: Exploring governing tensions within and beyond the state. People Place and Policy Online.

JCWI (2015). “No Passport Equals No Home” An Independent evaluation of the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Sep. 2018].

JCWI (2017). Passport Please: The impact of the Right to Rent checks on migrants and ethnic minorities in England. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 10 Sep. 2018].

Leahy, S. (2014) Landlords: the new border agents in the UK’s securitisation process. Critical Urbanists Blog [Accessed 10/09/2018].

Leahy, S., McKee, K., & Crawford, J. (2018). Generating Confusion, Concern, and Precarity through the Right to Rent Scheme in Scotland. Antipode, 50(3), 604-620.

Webber, F. (2014). Extending immigration policing and exclusion in the UK. Race & Class, 55(3), 86-92.

The Housing Studies Association (HSA) is a limited company registered in England and Wales under company number 13958843 at 42 Wellington Road, Greenfield, OL3 7AQ.
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