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Right to Rent Checks – New Government Guidance & New Digital Checks

Posted on November 26th, 2020

New government guidance has been released to advise landlords and letting agents about how to conduct a right to rent check when letting privately rented accommodation. The guidance sets out the specific actions they can take to prevent liability for a civil penalty.

You must conduct a right to rent check before you rent to a prospective tenant to ensure they have a legal status in the UK and are therefore allowed to rent. This includes everyone over the age of 18, including British citizens, who will use the property as their only or main home, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement and regardless of whether the tenancy agreement is written, oral or implied.

Changes from the last version of right to rent guidance

The most significant updates in this new guidance document relate to:

• the introduction of the Home Office online checking service

• the use of the combination of a passport, plus proof of travel within the preceding six months (for example a physical or electronic plane/boat/train ticket or boarding pass) for nationals visiting the UK from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA to demonstrate a right to rent

• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to include Home Office documents issued to third-country family members of EEA nationals, which show the length of leave granted to such persons (both time-limited and indefinite)

• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to remove the requirement that a UK birth or adoption certificate must be the full (long) certificate. A short or a long birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland are now acceptable documents to demonstrate a right to rent

• further minor amendments and technical changes to the presentation of the lists of acceptable documents making it simpler for landlords to conduct the initial and follow-up checks

Lockdown checks

Please remember that where checks have been made virtually during the coronavirus period (since 30 March 2020), you should carry out retrospective checks (once the coronavirus period is over) on tenants who:

  • started their tenancy during this period
  • required a follow-up check during this period

You should mark the retrospective check: “the individual’s tenancy agreement commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to rent check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”

The retrospective check must be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.

The Home Office will not take any enforcement action against you if you carried out the adjusted check set out in this guidance, or a check via the Home Office, and follow this up with the retrospective check.

New digital checks

From 25 November 2020, you will be able to conduct a right to rent check using the Home Office online checking service, for those eligible to use the service. This check can be carried out via live video link and as the information is provided in real-time, directly from Home Office systems there is no requirement to see documents.

If you conduct a check using the online checking service or a standard document-based ‘in person’ check as set out in the code of practice, it will not be necessary to conduct a retrospective check.

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