Landlords must check that any prospective tenants and occupiers aged over 18 can legally rent residential property in England.
From today, landlords must move from checking nationality to checking UK immigration status. This is because applications to the EU Settlement Scheme have now closed to most applicants.
The Scheme allowed EEA and Swiss citizens and their family to apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. This was because the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 ended free movement between the UK and the EEA and Switzerland on 31 December 2020. On 1 January 2021, a grace period began, during which time relevant aspects of freedom of movement law allowed eligible EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 to apply to the Scheme.
How to check
Most EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK will have made an application to the Scheme and will have been provided with digital evidence of their UK immigration status. They will evidence their Right to Rent by sharing their immigration status digitally, using the Home Office online Right to Rent service. The prospective tenant provides a share code and their date of birth to their prospective landlord, which is inputted to reveal a status of unlimited or time limited status to remain (see View a tenant’s right to rent in England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk))
However, Landlords must be aware that there will be other EEA or Swiss citizens who have another form of leave in the UK which is held in a physical document, such as an endorsement in a passport or visa. Such documents are included in the prescribed document lists (see pages 23-27 of the Code of Practice – link below).
Landlords should note that they cannot insist that individuals prove their status digitally. To avoid discrimination, prospective tenants must have an equal opportunity to go through a manual check using hard copy documents. In addition, landlords should note that right to rent checks must be carried out on all new tenants and occupiers – it is against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens.
Importantly, digital status checks can be conducted by video call permanently (not just under the extended lockdown relaxations) while hard copy checks will need to be conducted in person from 01 September 2021.
A revised Right to Rent Code of Practice now applies from today, which reflects these changes (see Right to rent immigration checks: landlords’ code of practice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)).
What if my existing tenant is an EEA or Swiss citizen?
There is no requirement to carry out retrospective checks on EEA or Swiss citizens who entered a tenancy before 30 June 2021.
What about those with a Biometric passport?
Nationals of the EEA (as well as those from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the USA) who hold a Biometric passport can enter the UK via e-gates at airports and ports and stay for up to six months.
As they will not have a visa or stamp in their passport, they are able to use their passport and evidence of travel to demonstrate their time-limited right to rent (see pages 23-27 of the Code of Practice – link above).
What if my tenant fails their follow up check?
If a follow up check shows that a tenant or occupier no longer has a right to rent or if a tenant or occupier refuses to undergo a follow-up check, a landlord should make a report to the Home Office (see Right to rent (eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk)).
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