In-person right to rent checks are set to restart in England as property emerges to some normality as the threat of COVID-19 appears to recede.
The Home Office has announced plans for the checks to begin in England from May 17.
Right to Rent allowed landlords to check scanned documents and speak to tenants by video under rules introduced during lockdown staring on March 30, 2020.
The controversial Right to Rent scheme demands landlords confirm the immigration status of tenants despite the High Court finding the legislation was unlawful and could lead to discrimination against British ethnic minorities and foreign nationals.
What is Right to Rent?
Under Right to Rent landlords must check a renter has a legal right to live in the UK before the start of a tenancy.
The rules apply to lodgers, renters sharing a house in multiple occupation and buy-to-let tenants.
The check applies to everyone over 18 living at a property even if they are not named on a tenancy agreement or if there is no tenancy agreement in writing or not.
It’s against the law only to check only renters who you suspect are not British citizens.
Be aware that many Commonwealth citizens may not have documents proving their right to live in the UK but are still entitled to stay.
Some renters have a time-limited right to stay in the UK. If that’s the case, carry out the Right to Rent check in the 28 days leading up to the start of the tenancy.
Right to Rent in lockdown
Under lockdown rules that are in place until May 16, landlords do not have to carry out Right to Rent checks face-to-face.
Instead, you can talk to the tenant over a video link and check scanned documents.
If the Home Office is holding tenant documents or their immigration status is under review, you should check the case online with the Home Office Landlord Checking Service.
You can find out more information about how to handle these cases by ringing the Landlord Helpline on 0300 069 9799.
Carrying out the check
Under the temporary lockdown rules, this is how to carry out a Right to Rent check:
- Ask a tenant to supply a scan or digital image of their documents
- Set up a video call with each tenant you are checking under Right to Rent. During the call you want them to hold up the original of the copied documents they sent over so you can check they are the same
- Keep a record of the time and date of the call – some software will let you record the conversation – and mark the copy documents ‘adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19’
If the renter has a biometric residence permit, a biometric residence card, has leave to stay under the EU Settlement Scheme or points based immigration scheme, then while making the video call, check their status on the Landlord Checking Service.
If you carried out a Right to Rent check under COVID-19 rules between March 30, 2020 and May 16, 2021, you do not have to update the check when the lockdown rules lift on May 17 providing you can show the check you carried out under COVID-19 rules followed the correct procedure.
Tenant can’t prove Right to Rent
If a tenant does not have the correct Right to Rent documents, you must tell the Landlord Checking Service who will review the case and get back with a response within two working days.
Right to Rent checks from May 17, 2021
Effectively, the rules stay the same, but the way landlords check reverts to pre-COVID-19 rules.
Under those rules, landlords carried out the checks face-to-face and reviewed original documents.
However, the Home Office does point out that some people may have difficulty proving their right to stay in England due to administrative issues during lockdown.
From May 17, 2021, Right to Rent is checked in one of two ways:
- Landlords review a tenant’s original documents face-to-face
- By the Home Office online right to rent service
To carry out a face-to-face Right to Rent check, you must:
- List all tenants over 18 living in your property as their main home.
A main home is somewhere:
- The tenant spends most of their time
- Tenant belongings are kept
- A tenant lives with their family
- A tenant is registered as a voter
- A tenant is registered with a doctor
Request they supply all original documents showing they have a right to stay in the UK
Check the documents are genuine and apply to the tenant in the presence of the tenant. You must check they:
- Are original
- Any permission to stay has not ended
- Dates of birth are the same on each document and seem believable
- Are not damaged or altered
- Names are the same on each document
Keep copies and record the date and time of the check – it’s a good idea to get the tenant to countersign the paperwork.
- Copy every page of a passport with the expiry date or applicant’s details (such as nationality, date of birth and photograph), including endorsements, for example a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK
- Copy both sides of biometric residence permits
Keep the copies while the tenants stay in your property and for one year after.
If you use the Home Office online right to rent service, you do not need to check documents personally as the review is carried out in real-time using government data.
For help with right to rent checks, call 0300 790 6268 (Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm Friday, 9am to 4:30pm).
When to check for Right to Rent
After the original Right to rent check, you must follow-up before the date which is the latest of the end of the tenant’s permission to stay in the UK or 12 months after the previous check.
If the tenant has no time limit on how long they can stay, follow up checks are not needed.