Right to Rent was introduced in February 2016 to try and prevent illegal immigrants applying for housing in England by making all adult occupants prove they have a legal right to reside in the UK before getting a tenancy. Landlords and Agents were, and still are, obliged to ensure these checks are done correctly, or could risk a heavy fine.
Both the pandemic and Brexit has confused things and the Government didn’t really issue any clear guidelines until now (30 June).
With Brexit, members of the European Union and Swiss citizens already resident in the UK prior to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, were given an opportunity, known as a grace period, to apply for settled status, which came to an end on June 30. What this means is that from now on Landlords and Agents will have to check UK immigration status of all applicants, rather than previously checking their nationality.
ARLA Propertymark have been working with the Home Office on these issues and advise as follows: “From this point, if someone is an EEA, EU, or Swiss national, you will need to see evidence of their UK immigration status rather than their national identification.” ARLA are also saying that the EEA and Swiss citizens residing in the UK who have already applied for their settled status, will have been given digital evidence of their UK immigration status, enabling them provide this information as proof of their Right to Rent. The digital checks were launched in December 2020, and the applicant can supply a share code along with their date of birth which when put into the system will show their status of either unlimited time or time limited status to remain in the UK. Those without digital checks would instead have a visa or document providing evidence of their status to remain. ARLA advises that digital status checks can be conducted by video call, providing hard copy checks will still be done face to face, when a copy of original document can be seen and photographed.
With effect from 1st July, anyone who has not applied for settled status, will lose “essential rights they have enjoyed up to now – including the right to rental accommodation.” But “The terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement state that EU citizens already living in the UK by the end of 2020 can remain with guaranteed rights, with the right to apply for permanent residence after five years, assuming they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.”
It is estimated that a backlog of 300,000 cases remain in the settlement scheme system awaiting approval, and campaigners have urged the Government to extend the June 30 deadline. This could cause a situation in the coming months whereby the status of these backlog cases are unknown, thus causing major headaches for Landlords and Agents, as they wouldn’t know for certain if that person has the right to rent.
Because of the Pandemic, virtual Right to Rent checks were introduced, this has now been extended to the end of August 2021. It allows Landlords and Agents to view the documents via video call and accept scanned or photographed documents. What we don’t know yet is, if we will be allowed to use virtual Right to Rent checks after August 31st.