Changes to the mandatory right to rent checks which were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will now end on 05/04/2022, extended from 17/05/2021, 21/06/2021 and 31/08/2021. The government has confirmed further extension was made as it “supports landlords and letting agents, whilst we look to implement a long-term, post-pandemic solution.”
The ‘long-term, post-pandemic solution’ is said to be “a new digital solution to include many who are unable to use the Home Office online checking service” and no doubt more information will follow from government in due course.
The updated government guidance is available here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Prior to the pandemic, a landlord had to meet all prospective tenants in person and check original documents from a specific set listed by the Government.
If the landlord was satisfied as to the identity and right to rent of the prospective tenant, they were to keep a copy of the documents and could then sign a tenancy agreement with them.
These documents were to be kept for 12 months after the tenant had left the property.
Temporary Pandemic Changes
Since 30/03/2020, the Government has allowed right to rent checks to be performed by reviewing scanned copies or photos of the documents via email or phone and checking the authenticity of those documents via a video call with the prospective tenant.
The landlord must mark a copy of the scanned document/photo with the phrase “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19” if satisfied the tenant has a right to rent.
From 05/04/2022 (extended from 17/05/2021, 21/06/2021 and 31/08/2021), landlords will need to revert to the original pre-pandemic position for right to rent checks, as outlined above (‘Pre-Pandemic Position’).
Alternatively, landlords can use the new digital system set up by the Government during the pandemic whereby a ‘share code’ is obtained by the prospective tenant and given to their potential landlord. Using the share code and prospective tenant’s date of birth, landlords will be able to verify the prospective tenant’s identity online.
It is good to note that, due to the length of the Temporary Pandemic Changes, landlords will not be expected to carry out follow-up checks in person for any tenancies where the temporary rules were followed.
Could I be fined if I have only undertaken an adjusted check?
No, if carry out an adjusted check in the prescribed manner set out above (Temporary Pandemic Changes) between 30/03/2020 and 05/04/2022, you have a defence against a civil penalty.
However, should a tenant with a time-limited right to rent require a follow-up check on or after 05/04/2022, you must ensure the follow-up check is undertaken in accordance with the ‘Post-Pandemic Position’, also outlined above.
Does this mean I cannot carry out face to face checks?
If there are opportunities to safely carry out the standard right to rent checks (see Post-Pandemic Position) in advance of the Temporary Pandemic Changes coming to an end, then you can and should.
Does the criminal offence remain in force?
Yes – it remains an offence to knowingly let property to an illegal migrant.
For all your landlord legal needs, get in touch for some free and friendly initial advice:
01704 790 532 – [email protected]