Writing in a column for the Independent, Burnham criticised the government’s proposals, which will see landlords face jail time if they fail to carry out the checks.
According to research carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, 42% of landlords said that Right to Rent will make them less likely to rent a property out to someone who does not have a British passport, while 27% said they were reluctant to even engage with tenants with foreign names or accents.
Citing this research, Burnham said that Right to Rent in its current form could ‘lead to widespread discrimination’.
He said: “The aim of the Immigration Bill is to make Britain a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants. In practice, it could end up making Britain a more hostile place for anyone with a foreign-sounding name – worsening the very problem that Cameron said he wanted to challenge.”
However, Burnham explained that the Labour party needed to recognise that the ability for EU citizens to move freely around Europe can undercut wages and widen inequality.
But he said it was important that the government did not ‘pander to prejudice and legislate in haste’, and instead focus on practical solutions to tackle any problems that mass immigration creates.
Tuesday will see the second reading of the Immigration Bill by home secretary Theresa May, with Labour planning to table a motion on the Bill, according to Burnham.
“In her own [Conservative party] conference speech, the Home Secretary claimed immigration was undermining social cohesion. The truth is that knee-jerk, divisive measures of the kind we see in her Immigration Bill are far more likely to do that. That is why, on Tuesday, I will be calling on the Home Secretary to think again and asking my colleagues to oppose her Bill.”
Andrew Turner, director, Commercial Trust, said the proposals ‘wrongly’ pushed front line immigration checks on to landlords.
“While the code of practice for avoiding discrimination is welcome, landlords are not trained immigration officials and, in conducting right to rent checks, could find themselves in the precarious position of potentially committing one of two separate offences if they put a foot wrong,” he said.
“Landlords are, after all, running businesses that are vital to the housing infrastructure of the UK. It is the government’s duty to ensure that landlords have all the knowledge and tools they need before any new laws take effect, and that they are not putting unreasonable burdens on the landlord community that may impact their ability to continue to provide housing for so many in the UK.”