Stop discriminating against renters and homeless people on the basis of their race

The Right to Rent:

The Right to Rent was introduced by the Immigration Act 2016.

It requires landlords to act as “untrained and unwilling border police” by checking the immigration status of tenants and occupiers and threatens them with a fine or up to 5 years imprisonment if the fail to comply.

It allows for tenants without a recognised “right to rent” to be evicted without a court order and creates a situation where many tenants with a “right to rent” are refused accommodation because a landlord decides to play it safe and rent only to households where everyone holds a British passport or there is no doubt about their status.

The High Court found the Right to Rent to be unlawfully discriminatory, however the government appealed and the Court of Appeal decided that although the policy caused racial discrimination – the government could justify it by its aims of reducing immigration by the deterrent effect of the hostile environment.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants are appealing to the Supreme Court.

NRPF

No Recourse to Public Funds:

No recourse to public funds is a condition of immigration leave. It applies to people in the UK lawfully, for example a non-British mother raising her British child in the UK. A woman in this situation can expect to wait 10 years before they are granted settled status. During that time they will have permission to work and pay taxes but have no access to means tested or top up benefits, help with housing costs or homelessness assistance.

Anyone who has worked for the minimum wage, for an agency, or on a zero hours contract knows that supporting yourself and your children on your wages alone is back breaking at the best of times. When something goes wrong, you fall quickly.

People without children have nothing to catch them. You can apply for the removal of the condition, but you have to prove destitution and applications to the Home Office can takes weeks or months to be decided.

People with children can ask for help from social services but getting urgent help is a fight in themselves and still we hear from mothers who have been told by social workers that their children will be taken into care if they cannot support themselves.

The High Court have recently found that despite the government’s attempts to justify the policy as part of the hostile environment to deter immigration, the lack of safeguards in the policy to stop some people falling into destitution was unlawful and a breach of human rights

Asylum Support:

Asylum seekers generally don’t have permission to work and do not have access to mainstream benefits. They only have access to a support regime designed to provide the bare minimum required to avoid a breach of a person’s human rights. The government contracts with private, profit making companies (Serco in the North West) to provide this regime who “disperse” asylum seekers away from London and the South East and to more deprived areas where there is a ready supply of cheap accommodation. Levels of financial support are set as low as possible to ensure that the regime provides a hostile environment to deter others from seeking asylum in the UK. As a result whilst the government immediately raised Universal Credit by £20 per week to provide extra support during CV19, they took 12 weeks to raise asylum support from £37.75 to £39.60 and whilst they have suspended other evictions until 23 August 2020, evictions from asylum accommodation look set to start up again soon.

We don’t need an inquiry to tell us why BAME people are four times more likely to die from CV19.

The government has decided that deliberately subjecting people to racial discrimination to create a hostile environment to deter people from coming to the UK is more important than protecting people from homelessness and destitution or giving them an equal chance of keeping themselves safe from CV19.

It doesn’t have to wait for more legal challenges. It can, if it chooses, protect people now.

GMLC supports the Campaign to ensure that everyone is protected from homelessness, irrespective of their immigration status. We have written to Andy Burnham and the leaders of all Greater Manchester authorities asking them to support the campaign and ensure housing justice for all.

Our demands are set out here

Everybody out? – Who’s vulnerable now?

Did you know that under English homeless laws if you are an ‘ordinary person’ (a legal definition), lose your home through no fault of your own and become street homeless, the council have no duty to provide you with shelter?

It’s different in Scotland – they changed the law to protect ‘ordinary’ people in 2012.

It’s different in Wales – they changed the guidance to extend accommodation duties to ‘ordinary people’ if rough sleeping.

But in England – we’ve chosen to keep to our tradition of denying a right to accommodation to ‘ordinary’ single homeless people. We’ve decided that the ‘ordinary’, usual indignity, degradation increased risk of harm and death associated with rough sleeping isn’t enough to justify placing an accommodation duty on the state.

The fact and scale of rough sleeping in this country, isn’t an accident. It’s a choice we’ve made.

On 24 March this year, the government told council’s to make a different choice. The Minister for Housing wrote a letter instructing them that as a result of COVID-19 they must bring “everybody in” and promised additional money to help pay for extra beds. As a result, not everybody, but an additional 15,000 people nationally, and 1573 in Greater Manchester were brought inside.

But this was just temporary. The money and the extra beds it bought have ran out and now we’re seeing a return to business as usual.

For GMLC that means battling everyday with councils trying to get them to accept that a client is more vulnerable than the ‘ordinary’ – arguing that while sleeping on a dark pavement, alone is deemed perfectly acceptable for an ‘ordinary person’, it is not for this specific person because they are old, sick, disabled, a victim of trafficking or domestic violence, suffering PTSD or suicidal etc.

Statutory and voluntary health and homelessness resources are wasted every day requiring doctors to write letters and fighting about how vulnerable someone has to be for the council to have a duty to act.  Resources that could be better spent on accommodation and support.

And it’s a false premise – every person who is rough sleeping or does not have accommodation where they can keep themselves or others safe is vulnerable.

Change is easy to achieve: remove the priority need criteria and extend an accommodation duty to all homeless people who need it.

If the choice is hard to do this is a hard one, then we need to be honest about what those in power are saying – ‘ordinary’ people sleeping on the streets is acceptable in England, at this time and even during a global health pandemic.

Congratulations to the Scots and the Welsh for taking a different view. GMLC are working to ensure we are not far behind. Join us in calling for change – email your MP today asking them to remove the priority need criteria for homelessness applications.

 

 

“Everybody Out?” The campaign continues!

 

GMLC welcomes the announcement that the stay on evictions has been extended until August 23rd.  We commend all of those that were involved in the campaign that has forced the Government to listen and act.

This is a massive relief as there is still nothing to prevent renters losing their homes as a result of COVID-19. There is still no legal protection for tenants that cannot meet their rent.  

 

GMLC and our campaign partners have proposed changes to the law that would provide justice and equity for tenants that are struggling – this can be found here. 

 

The campaign to ensure there is long-term protection for renters must continue … we cannot stop or ease the pressure until the law is changed and there is a rent amnesty for those cannot make payments because of COVID-19.

 

Know Your Rights!

GMLC has produced a COVID-19 Survival Guide for those that are struggling at present – click here

We have teamed up with the Tenants Union for a free training event on Wednesday 10th June – to book click here

 


Day 22 – Coming to the end of Volunteers Week

 

A massive thank you to all our volunteers & everyone who is working so hard across Greater Manchester. We have never needed you more.

Day 23 – 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre

 

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’

 

 

On the 31st anniversary of the #TiananmenSquareMassacre we stand in solidarity with all those who have protested against injustice across the world & continue to do so today. 


Day 24 – Why “Everybody Out?” matters

 

On 18 March Robert Jenericks promised renters that emergency laws would be brought in to ban evictions for 3 months.

The Coronavirus Act of 25 March fell well short of this pledge.

It did nothing to stop the evictions of tenant’s whose landlords who had already served notice, instead it merely extended the length of new notices to 3 months.

Despite lock down, possession proceedings and evictions were proceeding as usual. Greater Manchester Law Centre were overwhelmed with calls from families scared or ill with the virus and terrified that they were about to lose their homes.

It took the courts to step in on 27 March and make good on the government’s promise by using their powers to create a Practice Direction providing that all existing and newly issued possession claims and evictions be suspended for 3 months. This intervention by the court was challenged on the basis that the courts had overstepped their powers. Luckily the challenge was unsuccessful and the stay remained in place.

But it is coming to an end on the 26 June – the same time the first of the 3 months notices will expire.

This means that 25,000 households who have possession cases currently in court will face eviction once again. Of these 25%, around 6250 have already lost their cases and are facing eviction by bailiffs once the stay comes to an end.

But that is only the existing claims.

Every 3 months around 25,000 possession cases are issued by landlords. When you consider how many renters have been unable to pay their rent as a result of COVID-19, we can surely expect that number to increase and we conservatively predict that and addition 40,000 eviction claim will be ready to issue once the current stay expires.

That’s 65,000 household currently protected from eviction by the stay who will lose this protection on 26 June.

The courts have protected these household so far, but without changes to the law, judges will no longer be able to do so to a substantial degree. Section 21 and Ground 8 evictions give the judge no power to consider the reasonableness of eviction. They will not be able to consider the rights and wrongs of the case or the consequences for renters who will lose their home through no fault of their own at a time when the virus remains rife and the doors of solicitors and advice agencies remain closed.

Pre-COVID-19 over 33,000 people that present with a housing need to the council are found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness every month and the greatest cause of homelessness is eviction. We can expect this number to rise dramatically when the stay on evictions comes to an end and the additional assistance pledged by the government to build 6000 new homes is no way near enough to offset the crisis in homelessness that the UK faces as a result of COVID-19.

The stay simply has to continue until better protection exists – guidance or protocols encouraging landlords to show compassion doesn’t work when the judges are prevented from showing compassion of their own.

We truly are on a cliff edge and the clock is ticking. Join us in calling for change today.

 

What you can do:

The clock is ticking but if you have:

1 minuteSign this petition with Acorn

2 minutesEmail the Housing Minister with Shelter

5 minutesTell your story with Generation Rent

10 minutes – E-mail your MP – we have a template here.

Support other tenants in collective action – join a Union such as Tenants Union or Acorn 

 

We ARE all in this together and collectively we CAN stop COVID-19 evictions

 

 


 

Day 25 – #BlackOutTuesday

 

 

Stand against injustice & make your voice heard. 1pm this Saturday in Piccadilly Gardens. See you there #MCRBLM #BLM

 


Day 26 – Maxine Peake launches “Everybody Out?”

 

 

65,000 tenants and their families are at immediately at risk of eviction once the current ban on eviction expires on the 26th June.

Join us in demanding that the Government protects renters from eviction as result of COVID-19. Time is short and the clock is ticking.

 

The government cannot lift the current ban until they can guarantee that renters are protected from eviction.

Join the Law Centre, tenants organisations and other housing campaigners in their call to stop COVID-19 Evictions and provide protection for the 60% of private tenants who are struggling at this time of national emergency.

 

 

What you can do:

The clock is ticking but if you have:

1 minuteSign this petition with Acorn

2 minutesEmail the Housing Minister with Shelter

5 minutesTell your story with Generation Rent

10 minutes – E-mail your MP – we have a template here.

 

Support other tenants in collective action – join a Union such as Tenants Union or Acorn 

 

We ARE all in this together and collectively we CAN stop COVID-19 evictions