On April 6th 2022, new legislation changed how Right to Rent checks are carried out by landlords and letting agents in England.

Right to Rent changes were initially established to reduce in-person contact during the pandemic and were intended to be a temporary solution. However, the system’s success led to requests from letting agents and their landlords to use video calls in the long term.

Here, we explore the changes and how they will affect letting agents and landlords conduct Right to Rent checks going forward.

What has changed?

As of April 6th, hard copy forms of Biometric Residence Cards, Biometric Residence Permits and Frontier Work Permits will no longer be used as evidence of right to rent in England. All British citizens should have a nine-digit share code issued by the Home Office, which proves their right to rent, as outlined in the Code of Practice.

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, said agents should familiarise themselves with revised lists of accepted documents.

He said: “The new code paves the way for the introduction of certified digital identity service providers which will run digital identity checks for British and Irish Citizens as part of the Home Office’s introduction of identity document validation technology framework.”

The Covid-adjusted checks using video calls will continue to be accepted until September 30th, which will give agents and landlords time to onboard them responsibly.

The end of Covid-adjusted checks

Following intense lobbying from Propertymark, agents are no longer required to carry out repeat physical checks on an adjusted check carried out during the pandemic.

Once adjusted checks come to an end, though, digital checks on UK and Irish nationals will only be permitted through Identity Service Providers (IDSPs), who will deliver this in exchange for a fee.

IDSPs allow prospective and existing tenants to verify their identity remotely and prove their eligibility to work or rent – helping to reduce the costs of recruitment and letting processes. They will also be able to carry out checks on behalf of landlords at scale.

All IDSPs will need to be accredited by the UK Accreditation Service and meet the UK Digital Identity Attributes Trust Framework requirements. Once the suitable systems are in place, a complete list of certified providers will be published on the government’s website.

What does this mean for agents and landlords?

Despite the changes, agents can continue to use specified hard copy documents for UK and Irish nationals or BJ5SSK nationals (citizens from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the USA).

However, if an ISDP is offered, agents must not discriminate against applicants who prefer to provide hard copy documents checked online to September 30th.

Agents and landlords must carry these checks out in person from September 30th with records kept. As there is no identity card system for British citizens, the system will likely continue to include acceptance of hard copy documents for British and Irish citizens.

There are also severe implications for non-compliance. Agents or landlords who fail to comply with this new legislation could face a civil penalty, and failure to complete the correct Right to Rent checks could result in prosecution.

Therefore, when carrying out Right to Rent checks, agents and landlords should offer both digital and manual checks to ensure compliance and state that one is preferred over the other for absolute transparency.

For a comprehensive guide on completing Right to Rent checks and advice on using an IDSP, agents and landlords are encouraged to refer to this helpful guide.

Of course, employing the expertise of a specialist provider in the private rented sector can help agents offer protection to landlords and tenants, as well as success and growth for agents throughout the lettings process.