Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has asked representative bodies such as ours to circulate to our members clarification on accepting tenants who have arrived from Hong Kong. In particular, their right to rent status in England.
After Robert Jenrick met with new arrivals, it has become apparent that some are experiencing difficulties in obtaining accommodation through the private rented sector.
Some time ago, it was announced that a special visa scheme was to be put in place for Hong Kong residents to come to the UK.
The letter of clarification sent to us goes on to say:
Firstly, I want to address any concerns landlords may have with regards to Right to Rent. BN(O) status holders and their eligible family members will either arrive in the UK with a BN(O) visa, granting them a stay of either 5 years or 2 years and 6 months, or they can be granted Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) at the border, which will give them leave to stay of 6 months. LOTR is being granted at the border to allow BN(O) status holders and their eligible family members to enter the UK and apply for a longerterm BN(O) visa from within the UK. Both LOTR and BN(O) visa holders have the right to rent in the UK.
I understand that landlords or letting agents may have some concerns regarding letting to those who have been granter LOTR due to their 6 month period of leave. However, I wish to make it clear that a landlord can offer a 12 month Assured Shorthold Tenancy to someone who has been granted LOTR for 6-months. Right to Rent ensures that those with time-limited leave are not prevented from accessing the private rented sector, by having an ‘eligibility period’ which provides a landlord with a defence against a civil penalty. The eligibility period can be set to one year from the date on which the initial right to rent check was carried out.
This means that where an individual obtains LOTR, they can present their endorsed passport to a landlord to prove their Right to Rent. The landlord is not required to carry out a further check until the end of an initial 12 month period. Those on the BN(O) visa route will either have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or they will have digital status which can be used to evidence their immigration status in the UK, including their right to rent.
Where a tenancy rolls over the landlord should carry out a follow up check at the end of the 12-month eligibility period where the individual no longer has lawful status in the UK, the landlord must make a report to the Home Office via gov.uk to maintain a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty. A landlord is not required to evict the tenant unless issued with a ‘Notice of letting to a disqualified person’ by the Home Office. Whist we can’t guarantee that those with LOTR will apply for a BN(O) visa or another grant of leave, we believe that the majority of those granted LOTR would have the intention to say in the UK long-term and may wish to maintain tenancies for longer.
Secondly, I understand that providing extensive references may prove challenging for Hong Kong BN(O) status holders. Naturally, a letting agent is free to carry out any referencing checks within the law as they deem appropriate before accepting a new tenant. This may include income requirements or the need for a guarantor, dependent upon the decision of the individual landlord. I would encourage Landlords and letting agents to exercise discretion and, for example, to accept alternative forms of reference, in view of the exceptional circumstances that this group find themselves in. You may wish to consult further guidance on Hong Kong BN(O) status holders and their legal status, which can be found on gov.uk.
The letter goes on to confirm that the temporary COVID-19 adjustments to right to rent checks end on 21 June 2021 (where checks can be conducted at a distance). Furthermore, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens continue as normal (as pre-Brexit) until 30 June 2021 after which they can be checked online if they have provided a share code or, the same as currently for non-EEA nationals.
We have further information about right to rent checks for England.