Coronavirus and Right to Rent Checks: Temporary Changes for Landlords

right to rent checks

On 30th March 2020, the government announced some temporary changes to the rules of Right to Rent checks. These changes aim to make it easier for landlords to carry them out.

The changes are:

  • Checks can now be carried out via video call
  • Tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • Landlords should use the Landlord’s Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the existing documents

Checks will continue to be necessary and landlords must continue to check the prescribed documents of their tenants. It remains an offence to knowingly let a property to a person who is not lawfully in the UK.

Carrying out the check

The government have advised that the following measures should now be taken when conducting a Right to Rent check:

  • Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”

Find out more about COVID-19 and the PRS: Coronavirus: Landlord & Tenant Information (April 2020)

What if my tenant doesn’t have the right documents?

Because of COVID-19, some individuals will be unable to evidence their right to rent.

During this time, landlords must take extra care to ensure that no-one is discriminated against because they are struggling to evidence their right to rent.

For more information, please see the Code of Practice for Landlords: Avoiding Unlawful Discrimination When Conducting Right to Rent Checks in the Private Rented Residential Sector

If a tenant cannot provide documents from the prescribed lists, landlords must contact the Landlord’s Checking Service. The government have stated that they will respond to requests within 2 working days and a advise that landlords keep their responses to protect against a civil penalty.

What happens to Right to Rent checks after COVID-19 measures end?

When the temporary measures end, landlords must revert back to the original Right to Rent checks procedures outlined in the government’s Code of Practice on Illegal Immigrants and Private Rented Accommodation and Right to Rent Checks: A User Guide.

The government advises that landlords carry out retrospective checks 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 have stated that they will not take any enforcement action against landlords that have carried out an adjusted check set out by their guidance or a check via the Home Office and followed this up with the retrospective check.

If, at the point of carrying out the retrospective check, you find your tenant, (who started their tenancy during this period) did not have a right to rent, the government advises that you must take steps to end the tenancy.

If you discover that a tenant who required a follow-up check during this period no longer has a right to rent, you must report this to the Home Office as soon as you have carried out the check.

If the check you have undertaken during this period was done with original documentation, you do not need to undertake a retrospective check.

This information was taken from the government’s official guidance issued on 30th March 2020: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Landlord Right to Rent Checks

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