Whenever landlords take on new tenants or lodgers of residential property they must carry out the government’s ‘Right to Rent’ checks so as to ensure that all new occupants over 18 years old are able to legally rent in the UK.
Ordinarily landlords would carry out the required checks by asking for original documents that prove the occupant can live in the UK. Once inspected, they would make and keep copies of those documents and record the date they made the check.
Failure to comply with these requirements are severe; landlords can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison if they rent their property to someone who is not allowed to stay in England.
However, in light of the current restrictions we are all subject to, including social distancing and many people self-isolating, the government has temporarily adjusted some of the requirements. Checks are still necessary, and it remains an offence to knowingly let property to a person who is not lawfully in the UK, but as of 30th March 2020 the government has implemented the following (temporary) changes:
- Checks can now be carried out over video calls (rather than face to face).
- Tenants/lodgers can send documents for checking via email or take a photograph and provide it to their prospective landlord that way rather than sending originals.
- If tenants/lodgers are unable to provide evidence of their right to rent, landlords should use the government’s Landlords' Checking Service: https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/lcs-application.ofml?_ga=2.174056163.1384757081.1586869058-322395987.1579691176
Once the current restrictions have been lifted, landlords must go back to carrying out Right to Rent checks using the original procedure, and must carry out retrospective checks on tenants who started their tenancy during the lock-down or for whom a follow-up check was needed during this period.
Full details on these temporary changes and on how to carry out the retrospective checks can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks