The government has issued new Right to Rent guidelines for buy-to-let landlords, which will take effect from 6 April 2022.
If you rent out a property in the UK, either you or your agent – if you have one – is legally required to ensure that your tenants are allowed to rent. Failure to do this could lead to prosecution, and even a prison sentence.
While a person’s right to rent often relies on their immigration status, there is also a code of practice for landlords to follow to ensure they do not unlawfully discriminate against prospective tenants.
These checks have been made slightly more complicated since Brexit, as well as the onset of Covid. You can read more about the emergency measures that have been in place here. But it is crucial that landlords familiarise themselves with the latest guidance to ensure they are up to speed.
How does Right to Rent work?
Checking the legal status of a prospective tenant before you let your home to them can be done in a number of ways. Firstly, the tenant must provide original documents to prove they can live in the UK.
Throughout the pandemic, this could be done digitally, including making checks on a video call. You could also accept biometric residence cards or permits. However, from 6th April, this will not be acceptable.
The landlord or agent must also make and keep copies of the documents, recording the date.
The tenant can also provide a ‘share code’, if they have a biometric residence card or permit, have settled or pre-settled status, or have applied for a visa and used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document onto their phone.
If the tenant only has a temporary permission to stay in the UK, you must do a follow-up check to make sure they can still rent your property.
The guidance also covers equality and discrimination. It highlights the fact that landlords must not make assumptions on a person’s right to rent based on their colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, accent or length of time they have resided in the UK.
The Equality Act 2020 also applies when landlords are assessing tenants. This covers ‘protected characteristics’, including age, disability, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Furthermore, landlords must treat all applicants the same, and not discriminate based on whether they have a time-limited right to rent, for example.
The document says: “A landlord who discriminates contrary to the Equality Act 2010 in the way in which right to rent checks are carried out may be subject to a discrimination claim in court.
“The Equality and Human Rights Commission can also bring proceedings against a landlord who publishes a discriminatory advertisement or who instructs or induces another person to discriminate.”
A further change that will come into effect from 6th April 2022 is the technology used for checks. Landlords and agents will be able to use certified identification document validation technology (IDVT) service providers.
They will be able to carry out digital checks on behalf of British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport or Irish passport card.
Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, says: “The immigration system is digitising and letting agents operating in England need to be aware that the UK government is moving away from a system reliant on individuals proving their Right to Rent through physical documents to a more streamlined digital system.
“The changes are three months away and agents are urged to get ahead of the game and take the time now to understand how it will impact them going forward.”