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Right to Rent changes – what do prospective tenants need to know?

Posted on 2021-08-24

When the Government announced that all private landlords would have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out their property, there was disapproval from landlords, tenants and letting agents.

However, Right to Rent checks were still introduced across the UK in February 2016 after a six month trial in the Midlands. Meaning that landlords (or agents, if they accept responsibility for compliance) would be liable should their tenant not have the right to live in the UK.

These checks were problematic for all parties for several reasons – for tenants, it made the process of moving to the UK even more complicated, adding further steps and extra stress. It also added unwanted administration costs to moving homes and worried some that it could lead to increased homelessness.

Landlords argued that they aren’t trained immigration enforcers and are likely to be unable to tell the difference between a real and fake visa. Many said these checks would take a lot of time and add to an already busy process that landlords and agents have to go through when acquiring new tenants.

Additions to the ever-growing restrictions on the long-term Private Rented Sector, which sectors such as short-term and holiday lets seem to have avoided, have persuaded many landlords to find a way out, resulting in fewer properties available for tenants.

It also meant that landlords and agents could face hefty fines should they be unable to correctly identify fraudulent tenants, with over 400 fines being handed out from February 2016 to March 2018.

Many issues arose from Brexit, with confusion around EU citizens and freedom of movement and a lot of calls from the industry for Right to Rent checks to be scrapped altogether at this point.

The Covid-19 pandemic also brought a range of new challenges across the letting industry, including problems with how Right to Rent checks would occur.

Due to the pandemic, once they reopened, most letting agents were operating from home rather than in offices, making Right to Rent checks – which generally had to be conducted in person – even more problematic.

The Government did respond to this by relaxing the rules surrounding the checks in March 2020.  This changed the requirement so that agents no longer had to see original documents in person; these could now be done over video calls with scanned-in documents.

These changes were initially in place until the end of the pandemic, with no official end date, until April 2021, when the Government set an original deadline of May 17th.  This date was later extended  to the 20th of June, and then extended again until August 31st.

With this deadline edging closer, the majority of majority of adults in the UK having been vaccinated (or double vaccinated) and the country slowly returning to ‘normal’, it seemed as if Right to Rent checks were set to return to normal. This was until August 26th, when the Government announced another extension to the deadline – this time until April 5th 2022.

Tenants will still be able to complete Right to Rent checks via video call with scanned documents for the next few months at least, which eases the concerns from those who are vulnerable or still worried about Covid.

The Home Office stated that the decision came about “following the positive feedback [they] received about the ability to conduct checks remotely.”

If you want to find out more details about Right to Rent checks in the UK, you can do so by clicking here. If you’re moving to a new rented property, make sure you take out tenants insurance to protect your belongings and your landlord’s property.

 

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