The Home Office has handed a contract worth £267,000 to a major UK research agency to carry out an evaluation of the department’s Right to Rent scheme.
BDRC Continental Ltd. has been chosen to lead a review of the scheme, which requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of prospective tenants before letting to them, the department announced in a contract notice yesterday.
The evaluation, announced in March, came after a damning High Court judgement that found the scheme caused landlords to discriminate against both foreign nationals and black and minority-ethnic British citizens.
The judgement also barred the Home Office from continuing with a planned roll-out of Right to Rent checks to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland without further evaluation of the scheme.
The department has so far published few details of its plans for the review. After the High Court judgement, then-immigration minister Caroline Nokes said her department would was “looking at options for a further evaluation of the operation of the scheme”.
“As part of this, we will look to develop further mechanisms to monitor the operation of the scheme to provide ongoing assurance about its impact,” she said.
CSW understands the review could be modelled on a 2015 evaluation of the Right to Rent pilot, which used surveys, focus groups and mystery shoppers to assess the introduction of the scheme across four West Midlands boroughs before the nationwide rollout. Members of the Right to Rent consultative panel – a group of experts appointed to advise on the scheme – have been critical of the initial review, with one panel member calling it “a bit lightweight”.
The terms of reference for a consultative panel sub-group convened to advise on the process, seen by CSW, confirm mystery shopping will be a core part of the review.
Panel members have urged the Home Office to carry out a full evaluation of the scheme for years, a request that has been repeatedly knocked back. One panel member – David Smith, policy director of the Residential Landlords Association, which backed the High Court case – has said the legal challenge “could easily have been avoided” had the department listened to calls to review the scheme.
“Many of the problems with Right to Rent were made clear repeatedly in meetings at an early stage and these concerns were ignored,” Smith told CSW last month.
The Home Office has not said when the review would be completed, but BDRC Continental’s contract will last until December 2020, according to the public notice.
The company, which bills itself as “one of the UK's leading research agencies, with a track record of helping clients find effective insights to the trickiest challenges”, came out ahead of all the other bidders for the contract in the Home Office’s tender process, according to an award letter.
Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal announced it had set a date to hear the government’s appeal, withh the case will be heard on 14 and 15 January.