What are right to rent checks?
Right to Rent checks; the customary system that requires letting agents and landlords verify a tenant's legal status by reviewing and recording original documents as part of their verification procedure before renting to them has experienced various revisions since its inception.
This legal standard was created to ensure that prospective tenants of properties are legally entitled to be in the UK and was brought about under the Immigration Act 2014.
And it's changing again as part of the UK Government’s plans to digitise the immigration system with a new digital identity-checking technology. New legislative changes came into effect on the 6th of April 2022 that have altered how Right to Rent UK checks are conducted by landlords and letting agents. Here is everything you need to know about it…
COVID Adjusted Checks
Right to Rent checks underwent substantial alterations at the onset of the pandemic, with the implementation of temporary changes to the way checks are conducted in an attempt to reduce face-to-face interaction.
The modifications, which were first introduced on the 30th of March 2020, initially permitted checks to be performed using scanned or photographed documents submitted by applicants, as well as via video calls, rather than an examination of the physical copies that were previously necessary.
These temporary adjustments were originally scheduled to end on the 5th of April 2022 but have now been pushed back to the 30th of September due to the apparent success of the remote system which has prompted a review of the availability of technology to support a system of digital Right to Rent checks.
What Changes to Expect
On the 19th of January, the Home Office announced that landlords, letting agents, and employers will be able to begin using a certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP) to verify the identity and eligibility of British and Irish nationals to rent in the UK.
These service providers will employ digital identification document validation technology (IDVT) to carry out these checks. IDSPs will need to be accredited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) and meet the requirements of the UK Digital Identity Attributes Trust Framework; a full list of certified providers will eventually be published on the UK government website.
Individuals will be able to use IDSPs to remotely verify their identity, establish their eligibility to work or rent in the UK and lower their recruitment and rental expenses. They are also prepared to perform checks on behalf of employers and landlords on a large scale, reducing the number of hours spent manually checking paperwork.
Despite these changes, landlords and agents will not be permitted to discriminate against the UK and Irish citizens who choose to have their documents examined manually, according to the new Code of Practice. Both services should be provided to ensure compliance.
Who has the right to rent in the UK?
You have the right to rent if any of the following apply:
As well documented on the British Government website, you have the right to rent in the UK if:
you're a British or Irish citizen
you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
you have refugee status or humanitarian protection
you have settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme
you have permission to be in the UK, for example, on a work or student visa
the Home Office has granted you a time limited right to rent
Non-UK or Irish citizens - What Else is Changing?
Two different systems are available to prove Right to Rent eligibility of renters from outside the UK or Ireland. Agents and landlords will now be required to utilise the Home Office Landlord Checking Service if a tenant has applied for EU settlement status, has an ongoing immigration application, or has the right to rent for a limited time.
If they are from abroad and have a UK Biometric Residence Permit, E-visa, or EU Settled Status, they must now conduct these checks online using the Home Office Checking Service.
Physically checking these documents has not been possible since the 6th April. Retrospective checks will, however, are not required for Biometric Residence Cardholders who utilised a physical document to prove the right to rent prior to April 6, 2022.
Nonetheless, if a landlord or agent chooses to conduct a retrospective online check and discovers that their tenant no longer has the Right to Rent, this must be reported to the Home Office via the online form to preserve a statutory excuse against prosecution and comply with the laws.
Employers and landlords will have a statutory excuse against any civil penalty if the initial checks were performed in accordance with the guideline that was in effect at the time the check was performed.
What happens if you fail a right-to-rent check?
In the event that you do not pass your pre-tenancy right to rent check, then you will not legally be allowed to rent the property. If you request for a follow up check, and that also fails then your landlord is required to contact the Home Office. As a result, the government may provide you with a disqualification notice. Although not legally bound to, your landlord may be asked by the Home Office to end the tenancy.
Who is subject to digital Rent to Right Checks?
All tenants above the age of 18 seeking to live in the property as their sole or primary accommodation. This includes tenants who may not even be explicitly named in the tenancy agreement.
However, there are several exceptions to this, including student accommodation, social housing and leases that are seven years or more.
What if a tenant cannot supply the correct documents?
If your tenant cannot supply the correct documents, as a landlord, you can still verify their right to rent using the Home Office landlord’s checking service.
To Sum Up
These additional adjustments are being implemented in response to the success of adjusted checks, which have been well accepted by all parties since their inception nearly two years ago. The government's positive response to remote checks has shifted the favour towards a permanent system of remote, digital Right to Rent checks, ultimately prioritising a faster and more convenient process for landlords and agents.
Although these changes went into effect on April 6th, agents and landlords will be able to use the temporary system until September 30th to give themselves enough time to prepare for and react to the new legislation, as well as identify an appropriate IDSP supplier. If compliance with this new legislation is not met, landlords and letting agents risk facing a civil penalty or even prosecution. Our tenant referencing for letting agents solution does include a cursory right-to-rent check.