Online Right to Rent Checks – Latest News
Just as landlord and tenants thought that they would no longer able to satisfy right to rent checks online because of the anticipated end of the COVID-19 related concession on the 31 August 2021 allowing online right to rent checks, the goal posts have been changed again. However, for once, landlord and tenant solicitors as well as landlords and tenants are pleased with the news. Namely, that right to rent checks can continue to be conducted remotely or virtually until the 5 April 2022.
UK Online and London Based Landlord and Tenant Solicitors
The right to rent check – virtual checks extended
At OTS Solicitors, head of the landlord and tenant team, Nollienne Alparaque, welcomed the news that the government has chosen to extend the availability of virtual online right to rent checks from late August 2021 until the 5 April 2022. However, Nollienne Alparaque, regrets the late notification of the extension of the online right to rent checks as the delay in the announcement meant many tenants were anxious about how they were going to prove their right to rent through providing physical documentation.
With or without the global pandemic, many landlord and tenant solicitors thought that in 2021 it was not unreasonable to move right to rent checks from the examination of physical paperwork to the online checking of a tenant’s right to work. The online process is after all normally easier for both landlord and tenant, in an age where everyone is able to use their smart phone or an online application for banking to purchases or instructing their solicitor on a transaction.
Why has the Home Office extended the right to rent online checks
Landlords and tenants have questioned solicitors as to why the Home Office has extended the deadline for online right to rent checks by around seven months when the UK is coming out of COVID-19 related lockdowns and many industries are stressing that it is ‘business as normal’. That approach would logically mean that right to rent checks would return to the pre COVID-19 rules.
Although the government had said previously that new tenants and their right to rent documents would have to be checked face-to-face from the 31 August onwards, this deadline has now been extended because the Home Office has formed the view that technological advances have made online right to rent checks work during the concessionary period. That begs the question why not permanently allow virtual checks. Landlord and tenant solicitors fully anticipate that many will campaign for quick long-term change to right to rent checks because if the UK is now changing its work practices and continuing to work from home there is an argument to adapt landlord right to rent checks to keep up with digital advances.
The Home Office has said it intends to use the time to April 2022 to look at permanent solutions for remote right to rent checks that are both secure and robust whilst also being convenient and user friendly. Their plan is to look at ways to extend the current online right to rent checks to cover additional tenants who currently aren’t able to use the remote checking facility.
Remote right to rent checks – what this means for landlords and tenants
Until the 5 April 2022 landlords and letting agents can continue to perform online video identity checks and accept digital or scanned copies of a tenant’s right to rent paperwork.
Although the virtual concession has been extended and the Home Office has issued new updated right to rent check guidance dated August 2021, the main take out for landlords is that right to rent checks must still be carried out on all prospective tenants. The conduct of a right to rent check provides a landlord with a statutory excuse from liability for a penalty for breaching right to rent legislation. To secure that statutory excuse the important points to note are:
- The right to rent check must be carried out on all tenants of residential property – it matters not if the tenant is known to the landlord or the landlord believes it is obvious that the prospective tenant is a British citizen.
- The right to rent check must be conducted before the tenancy agreement starts.
- Right to rent checks have to be made on all adult tenants – not just the main tenant who the landlord or lettings agent has dealings with.
- Right to rent checks must not be carried out in a discriminatory manner. If a right to rent check is conducted in a discriminatory way, then a landlord could face a discrimination claim that includes a claim for compensation.
Updated right to rent guidance for EU national tenants
Many landlords have questioned what they should do about right to rent checks for EU nationals. That is because until the 30 June 2021 all a prospective tenant who was an EU citizen had to do was provide evidence of their nationality. With the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme on the 30 June 2021 the rules on the evidence needed for right to rent checks on EU nationals changed but the government then announced additional concessions for late applications to the EU Settlement Scheme .
Those concessions for EU nationals have led to clarification of the right to rent check requirements for EU nationals in the Home Office issued August 2021 right to rent guidance. The new guidance reflects the fact that if a tenant has a pending EU Settlement Scheme application, and can evidence that with a certificate of application, then a landlord should verify the prospective EU tenants right to rent by using the landlord checking service. Prior to the updated Home Office guidance there was no clarity on what landlords were meant to do about right to rent checks for late EU Settlement Scheme EU applicants with pending settled status applications.
UK Online and London Based Landlord and Tenant Solicitors