THE UK Government's controversial "Right to Rent" policy, which forces landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, should be blocked in Scotland, a court will hear today.

The government plans to extend the scheme – which came into effect in England in February 2016 – to cover Scotland and Wales.

However the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is bringing a case claiming the rules, part of the Home Office's hostile environment policy, will increase discrimination against people from ethnic minorities.

The case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on the18th and 19th of December.

"Right to Rent" requires landlords to check a prospective tenant is legally permitted to live in the UK before renting them a room or property. Landlords in England who fail to do so face criminal penaltie, including fines of up to £3,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years.

However it has been criticised for forcing landlords to carry out residence checks, turning them into "de-facto immigration enforcement officers".

Scottish human rights experts are to give evidence to the courts and call for Scottish landlords to continue to be exlcuded from the scheme.

John Wilkes, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said landlords might simply avoid the risk altogether by discriminating against anyone who might be in the country illegally:

"The right to rent scheme will increase discrimination against ethnic minorities because landlords will simply avoid letting to anyone who they think could be an illegal overstayer," he said. "Because of the complexity of immigration law we are concerned that people with only limited leave to remain – who could include entrepreneurs, sponsored employees, and students – could be particularly affected.”

The EHRC says the UK government has failed to comply with its duties under equalities law to ensure that all policies are non-discriminatory or that steps are taken to minimise any risk of discrimination.

"Amongst our concerns are that the Government has never properly monitored the scheme to see if discrimination has increased and that it has never considered not rolling out the scheme to Scotland and Wales if it were found to be," mr Wilkes said.

The London-based Residential Landlord's Association has previously admitted that some landlords are likely to discriminate if faced with fines or imprisonment for not making proper checks.

Callum Chomczuk, deputy director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland has described the policy as 'hanging over' tenants in Scotland. "Landlords in England are now obliged to review documentation of anyone taking up a new tenancy, which means that they become de-facto immigration enforcement officers," he said. He called for the Home Office to drop the policy.

The Home Office says the policy is fair to those here legally, but firm with those who try to break the rules.