As a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government introduced a temporary change to the right to rent checks landlords need to carry out for prospective tenants in March 2020. These emergency right to rent check changes are coming to an end on 16 May 2021.
In this blog, we look at these right to rent checks, how they will be changing from 17 May 2021 and what landlords should be aware of.
What is the right to rent?
Having the right to rent means that a tenant has the legal right to rent property from the landlord. A person has the right to rent if they:
- are a British citizen
- are a citizen of a country in the EU or European Economic Area (until 30 June 2021)
- are a citizen of another country with no time limits on their permission to live in the UK (such as those with indefinite leave to remain)
- have refugee status or humanitarian protection
Who needs to be checked?
All tenants and lodgers in England must be checked. It’s illegal to only check people that the landlord believes not to be British.
Right to rent checks do not need to be carried out for prospective tenants in the following types of accommodation:
- social housing
- a care home, hospice or hospital
- a hostel or refuge
- a mobile home
- student accommodation
- accommodation provided by a local authority
- accommodation provided as part of their job (also known as ‘tied accommodation’)
Right to rent checks also do not need to be carried out for children. This means that a landlord may allow all those under the age of 18 to occupy a property.
If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, for example, those on a work visa, the landlord will need to do a check 28 days before the start of the tenancy.
Right to rent checks: before the pandemic
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, landlords had to meet all prospective tenants in person and check one (or two) of the documents proving the prospective tenant’s rights to live in the UK. The Home Office provides a complete list of the accepted documents, which include passports, driving licences and birth certificates.
If landlords were satisfied that the documents were genuine and identified the prospective tenant in question, they would make and keep copies of the documents along with a record of the date on which the right to rent check was carried out.
After successfully carrying out these right to rent checks, landlords were free to enter into a tenancy agreement with the prospective tenants.
Right to rent checks: during the pandemic
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the requirements for the right to rent checks were adjusted to minimise face-to-face meetings.
From 30 March 2020, the Government allowed the right to rent checks to be carried out by the landlord:
- asking the prospective tenant to submit a scanned copy or photograph of the original document via email or using an app
- arranging a video call with the prospective tenant, asking them to hold up the original documents to the camera, and checking them against the digital copy provided
Landlords could also use the online right to rent service during a video call to check the prospective tenant’s document if the prospective tenant:
- had a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card, or
- was granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system
For the landlord to use the online right to rent service the prospective tenant needed to consent to this and provide the landlord with their ‘share code’.
If the landlord was satisfied that the prospective tenant had the right to rent, they were to record the date of the check, marking it as ‘adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19’.
Right to rent checks: after the pandemic
On 16 May 2021, these temporary adjustments to the right to rent checks are coming to an end, with landlords once again being able to meet prospective tenants face-to-face.
Where a landlord performed a right to rent check online during the pandemic, the original plan was for the landlord to carry out follow-up checks in person at the end of the pandemic. However, due to the length of the temporary adjustment, this plan has now been scrapped, and landlords will not be required to carry out such follow-ups.
From 17 May 2021, landlords will now be able to check a prospective tenant’s right to rent by either:
- checking their original documents, or
- checking their right to rent online, if the prospective tenant has provided the landlord with their ‘share code’
While landlords are encouraged to continue checking prospective tenants’ rights to rent using the online service, landlords cannot insist that prospective tenants use this service or discriminate against those who choose to use their document to prove their right to rent.
More information on these right to rent checks can be found in our Right to rent guide.