Covid-19 changes the face of right to rent checks

The lettings landscape is always changing and for landlords it can be difficult to keep up with changes in legislation. The most recent change to the rental sector is how right to rent checks are done during the pandemic. We’ve put together the below blog to help you keep up to date and compliant as a landlord during this time. 

What is right to rent?

The right to rent scheme, implemented by the Home Office, is there to ensure landlords check that the tenants living in their properties have legal status to live in the UK. The Home Office introduced Right to Rent checks as a deterrent to those looking to seek to live in England illegally. Only those who are able to live in the UK have a right to rent. 

Who needs to carry out a right to rent check?

Before a landlord or letting agent can rent out a home in England, they are required to check a potential tenant’s passport and complete the necessary immigration checks. Anyone who is also a live-in landlord renting out part of the house or a tenant subletting one of the rooms out in the property, should also carry out these checks. If a tenant fails to help and doesn’t want to comply with a check being carried out, they could face being reported. 

Who is subject to a right to rent check?

Since 1st February 2016, any tenant in England that is renting a property must prove that they have legal status to live in the country.  You must check all new tenants. It’s against the law to only check people who you think aren’t British Citizens. 

Who doesn’t need a right to rent check?

You don’t have to check tenants that are moving in to the following accommodation:

  • social housing
  • a care home, hospice or hospital
  • a hostel or refuge
  • a mobile home
  • student accommodation
  • local authority accommodation
  • Housing provided as part of their job 
  • Property with a lease that’s 7 years or longer

How is a right to rent check done?

A landlord or letting agent must carry out the following:

  • From a list of acceptable identification documents, an original document must be checked to make sure the tenant has the right to live in the UK legally. This could include a UK/EU passport and a permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain.
  • Anyone 18 or older that’s living in the property, also needs to be checked, even if they aren’t on the tenancy. 
  • These documents must be copied for reference purposes and be securely stored and the original documents returned once the check is complete.

Checks always had to be carried out face to face with all prospective occupiers using original documents. Yet due to Covid 19, there have been changes in the way documents are verified.

How Covid-19 has changed the right to rent check

Checks now don’t need to be done face to face. Due to the pandemic and the need for social distancing where possible, these checks can be done via a video link. To verify a tenant’s photographic I.D, the tenant can just hold this up next to their face during the video call so the landlord or letting agent can confirm who they are. A scanned copy of the document then needs to be sent electronically by the tenant to the landlord so they have this on file. 

However, as the key to the property is usually handed over in person, this means that the verification process could still technically be done face to face but socially distanced. Where once the verification must be done face to face, the checks now allow for verification virtually. 

This means landlords and letting agents can still complete the appropriate checks needed. By adapting to the current climate, landlords can still ensure they can let out properties and still be compliant.