Residential Tenancies: Changes to the Right to Rent Scheme
The Right to Rent Scheme was introduced in England in 2016 in relation to all residential tenancy arrangements, made with tenants who occupy the dwelling as their only or main home. The scheme was set up to ensure compliance with the Immigration Act 2014. It imposes a duty on all landlords in England to prevent disqualified persons from accessing the private rented sector. To fulfil this duty, private landlords must check the immigration status of tenants, by taking steps, such as verifying their identification, before the start date of a tenancy agreement.
In the wake of Brexit, the fourth version of the Code of Practice on Right to Rent was updated on 21 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, EEA citizens and their family members require the correct immigration status in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals.
What is the new requirement?
Where landlords were previously required to check nationality to satisfy the Right to Rent Scheme, from 1 July 2021, they will be required to check the UK immigration status of all adult applicants, rather than their national identification, to prove their right to rent.
Most EEA citizens residents will be able to evidence their right to rent by sharing their immigration status digitally, using the Home Office online right to rent service on GOV.UK.
However, other EEA citizens may have another form of leave in the UK, which is held in a physical document, for example an endorsement in a passport, visa or vignette. Those documents are included in the prescribed document lists, which landlords will be required to check in this instance.
In light of the delay of Covid 'Freedom Day', which was due on 21 June 2021, the Government has confirmed that landlords will still be able to carry out online video identity checks (see article regarding this) and accept digitals copies of identification until 31 August 2021.
From 1 September 2021, landlords will be required to revert to face-to-face and physical document checks, the details of which can be found in the Government's Right to Rent Guidance.
The duty imposed on landlords by the Right to Rent scheme is stringent. Penalties of a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant or up to 5 years imprisonment await any landlord failing to comply.