Right to Rent checks, the divisive system that requires letting agents and landlords conduct checks on tenants before they rent to them, has undergone various changes since its introduction – with checks currently being carried out remotely.
While this has been the case for about two years, it was due to end on the 6th of April 2022, with talks of a new digital identity-checking technology being introduced on this date.
Right to Rent checks have again been under the microscope as we continued to approach the event, and on February 22nd, it was announced that the end date would be extended until the 30th of September 2022, meaning that agents and landlords can continue to carry out checks remotely.
Here, we review how the checks have changed over the past two years, the new ID technology, and set out what to expect in 2022.
Temporary changes to Right to Rent during Covid
Right to Rent checks saw a massive overhaul at the start of the pandemic, whereby temporary adjustments to the way checks are carried out were made to keep face-to-face contact to a minimum.
The changes, first introduced on March 30 2020, allowed checks to be carried out with applicants submitting scanned or photographed documents rather than the physical versions that were required before.
Letting agents and landlords were able to conduct Right to Rent checks via video calls. This was seen as a temporary measure by the Home Office, but it has been extended several times as various restrictions remained on people mixing and face-to-face contact.
At the same time, the apparent success of the system led to confusion and uncertainty among letting agents and their landlords about why video calls couldn’t be used in the long term.
Last year, the government announced that the end date for the temporary checks had been deferred to April 5 2022, and it has now been delayed again to the 30th of September.
New ID technology to be used in Right to Rent
On January 19, the Home Office announced that landlords, letting agents and employers will be able to use certified new technology to carry out Right to Rent checks digitally.
The decision followed positive feedback about the ability to conduct checks remotely. As a result, it initiated a review of the availability of technology to support a system of digital Right to Rent checks.
Following this review, it has been confirmed that from April 6, certified identity service providers (IDSP) can use Identification Document Validation Technology to conduct Right to Rent checks on behalf of British and Irish citizens.
IDSPs allow people to verify their identity remotely and prove their eligibility to work or rent, which will reduce the costs of recruitment and letting processes. They will also carry out checks on behalf of employers and landlords at scale.
Working time and hours spent undertaking the checks will be slashed as landlords and employers who use an IDSP will no longer need to examine documents physically, the government claims.
In the statement, Kevin Foster, minister for safe and legal migration, said: “Online checks make it quicker, easier and more secure for employers and landlords to carry out right to rent and right to work checks and stop those looking to abuse our immigration system.”
“These changes will make the checks more secure, quicker to do and will better support remote working practices.”
Right to Rent and Brexit – what else is changing?
Currently, if the tenant has a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), Biometric Residence Card (BRC), or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system, landlords or agents can use the online right to rent service while doing a video call if they have the applicant’s permission.
If a tenant does not have the correct documents, you must contact the Home Office Landlord Checking Service. Once a request has been submitted, you should get an answer within two working days and must keep this response to protect against a civil penalty.
However, a recent Home Office update said that from April 6 2022, BRP, BRC and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) holders must evidence their right to rent using the Home Office online service only, and presentation of a physical document will no longer be acceptable.
The update also stated landlords do not need to retrospectively check the status of BRC, BRP or FWP holders who entered into a tenancy agreement up to and including April 5 2022.
Landlord responsibilities in 2022
The adjusted checks have worked exceptionally well for all parties since they were introduced nearly two years ago, with the government receiving positive feedback about checks being carried out remotely.
Based on this, it seems the government now favours a more permanent system of remote, digital Right to Rent checks, essentially prioritising a quicker, safer and more convenient process for landlords.
However, until these changes take effect on April 6, agents and landlords will want to receive plenty of prior warning about their obligations beyond April, and landlords must continue to check the prescribed document as set out in the landlord’s guide to right to rent checks.
Agents and landlords can continue to conduct checks via video call until the 30th of September, to give them time to find a suitable IDSP provider, and make any necessary changes to their processes.