On March 30th 2020, landlords were given the green light to conduct right to rent checks on their tenants using digital means to make life easier during the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that the checks could be conducted over video calls, tenants could scan over documents or take photos of relevant paper work rather than providing original copies. There was also a right to rent app that was available to use.
This will remain the case but only until May 16th 2021, when the old guidance will come back into play, whereby landlords will have to check the original documents or check their tenants right to rent using the online service if they have access to the tenants share code. This is in-line with the government guidance allowing indoor socialising from May 17th.
One important thing to remember is that the landlords will NOT have to conduct retrospective checks on their tenants if they have already conducted a digital check. Previously it was planned that they would have to conduct retrospective checks but this has been changed, which we view as a positive move.
Business as usual
Now that restrictions are slowly being eased, landlords will be expected to return to checking their tenants’ right to rent in the regular way from May 17 2021.
You can read all about right to rent checks and the relevant procedures in our previous article here, but we will summarise the main points below.
Who has the right to rent?
People have the right to rent if any of the following apply:
- they are a British or EEA citizen
- they have indefinite leave to remain or settled status
- they have refugee status or humanitarian protection
- they have permission to be in the UK and have a valid visa
- the Home Office has granted them a time limited right to rent
How should landlords conduct a right to rent check after 16th of May 2021?
It is essential that landlords conduct a right to rent check before they enter into a tenancy agreement with a person. If a person’s right to rent is time-limited, the landlord should conduct a follow-up check shortly before their leave expires.
Document checks are the usual way landlords can tell if someone has the right to rent in the UK. If a prospective tenant can produce either one document from group 1 or two documents from group 2 then they should meet the requirements.
It is important that the landlords are vigilant in their checks, and make sure that the documents are consistent, genuine and have not been tampered with.
Also, despite indoor socialising being permitted in some cases from May 17th, we would suggest that both the tenant and landlord wear masks and try to keep their distance where possible, as a safety precaution.
List Group 1 – (One document needed).
- A passport showing that the holder is a British citizen, or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the ‘right of abode’ in the UK.
- A passport or national identity card showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
- A registration certificate issued by the Home Office to a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A document certifying permanent residence issued by the Home Office to a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A permanent residence card issued by the Home Office to the family member of a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A document issued by the Home Office to a family member of a national of an EEA state or Switzerland and which indicates that the holder is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder which indicates that the person named in it is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A passport or other travel document endorsed to show that the holder is ‘exempt from immigration control’, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has ‘no time limit’ on their stay in the UK.
- An immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the person named in it is allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.
List Group 2 and more– (Two documents needed).
This list includes many variations of certain government issued letters and documentation, which can be found from page 4 and onwards of this document. Certain combinations will amount to the tenant having the right to rent.
Where a person is unable to present a landlord with any of the above acceptable evidence, the landlord can make a request to the Landlord Checking Service to establish whether their prospective tenant has a right to rent.
Right to rent online checking service
Landlords may be able to check their tenants’ right to rent online as long as their tenant:
- has a biometric residence card or permit
- has settled or pre-settled status
- applied for a visa and used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document on their phone
If the tenant is an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, they can continue to use their passport or national identity card to prove they can rent in England until 30 June 2021.
To use the online service the landlord will need the tenants’:
- date of birth
- ‘share code’
The share code will be emailed to the landlord or given to them by the tenant.
You can find a link to the online service here.
Retrospective checks not required
As we mentioned at the start of this article, landlords who have conducted checks via digital means from 30 March 2020 to 16 May 2021 are not obliged to re-check the original documents. We feel that this is a show of understanding for the difficulty the pandemic has caused landlords, and will save them from chasing up tenants for information they have already provided.
In terms of the Home Office reverting on their previous stance regarding retrospective checks, we are pleased to see this has been reverted. To demand secondary checks would be time consuming for everyone involved. We also feel that the digital checking system worked fairly well over the course of the pandemic.
However, as we mentioned in our previous article on right to rent checks, the Home Office’s online right to rent checker has proved to be unreliable in the past. The main issue is that some candidates can be shown as not having the right to rent as a result of their immigration status being outdated or inaccurate.
It is the law that if an applicant has submitted their application for renewed status before their previous status has expired, their lawful status remains valid while their applications are processed. However, in the past this has not always been translated into the right to rent system, so landlords have been given information that suggests their tenants do not have the right to rent when legally they do.
We hope that the system has been updated, and that the revisions to the system during the COVID-19 pandemic will have helped to iron out issues such as these. We will have to wait and see.
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