Since February 2016, all landlords and agents have had to make certain checks on tenants to ensure they have a legal right to live in the UK. This Right to Rent scheme requires that before a property can be let:
- The tenant provides the landlord or agent with original documents from the government’s acceptable documents list, proving they have the right to be here.
- With the prospective tenant(s) present, the landlord or agent checks that:
- the documents appear genuine and have not been tampered with
- they belong to the tenant in question
- the right to enter and remain in the UK has not expired.
- A copy of each document is made and the date of the check is recorded.
- The copies are kept securely for a minimum of one year after the end of the tenancy.
If tenants can’t produce the required documentation or there are any concerns, you can make checks online via the Home Office service.
Two changes to the system in 2020
The first change happened back in March, when the Government made a temporary adjustment to the law to take into account public health guidelines around social distancing and lockdown restrictions. That’s meant we’ve been able to grant new tenancies to foreign nationals while making sure people stay safe, keeping the industry moving at this very challenging time. So, as it stands:
- Prospective tenants can be checked via video call, rather than in person
- Landlords/agents don’t have to see original documents - the tenant can send scanned or photographed copies.
The second change was an update to the Right to Rent legislation that came into force in November, which it’s hoped will give landlords, agents and tenants a better experience of the scheme. The basic rules for checking all tenants hasn’t changed, but the Government has simplified the documentation process for nationals of certain countries and launched a new online service, provided by the Home Office. The tenant simply needs to view their own Home Office profile and then provide the landlord with a ‘share code’ that lets them access the relevant right to rent information. All their other personal information remains private.
What issues could there be in 2021?
On 1st January, the new points-based immigration system comes into force for EU citizens, which could massively expand the scope of Right to Rent. All EU nationals who haven’t applied for settled status in the UK by 31st December could be included in the scheme.
Government regulations state that once the pandemic is over, every tenant that’s been checked under the temporary measures must be re-checked within eight weeks. That’s a huge number of tenancies, for which:
- the tenant needs to be contacted to explain the issue
- an appointment needs to be made to meet in person
- original documents must be provided, checked and copied
- a second set of copies has to be filed against each tenant’s record.
Rest assured if we are managing your property, you don’t need to worry about Right to Rent, we will look after all of this for you.
ARLA Propertymark has already written to the Home Office, warning them that landlords and agents will almost certainly fail to comply with the eight-week deadline for rechecking because of the volume of work.
Managing your own property? Here’s how you can stay on top of things
There are two key government resources online to help landlords:
The Home Office user guide states clearly which documents are required for nationals of different countries, so have a look at that and make sure you’re clear on the updates and are ready to tell your tenants what originals you’ll need to see.
Identify which of your tenants are EU citizens and find out whether they’ve applied for settled status, so you can check what documentation they needed to provide before 1st January. Contact them as soon as possible to arrange for the checks to be made under the current, temporary methods.
If you manage multiple properties it may be worth making sure you know how many tenants will need to be rechecked post-pandemic so you can work out how much time you’ll need to set aside. It might be a good idea to start contacting them now to explain the process, so that you don’t have so much work to do when the time comes.
If you’d like to upgrade to our managed service, we can of course manage all this for you. Alternatively there is a Landlords helpline you can call on 0300 790 6268.