Since the onset of the pandemic, letting agents and landlords have been able to conduct Right to Rent checks via video calls, with the temporary measure ceasing on August 31 2021.
Now that the grace period for the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme has ended, the future of the Right to Rent checks has been brought into question, and confusion reigns about where letting agents and landlords currently stand.
Below, we review how the checks have been changed during the pandemic and analyse the changes that are expected going forward.
A Covid-adjusted process
The divisive Right to Rent checks, which were first introduced across England in early 2016, saw a massive change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a string of national lockdowns preventing in-person meetings, 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 had been extended a number of times as various restrictions remained on people mixing and face-to-face contact.
The system meant checks could be carried out with applicants submitting scanned or photographed documents, rather than the physical versions that were required before.
But with the apparent success of the system, there was confusion and uncertainty among letting agents and their landlords about what the system would look like post-Covid and post-Brexit, and some questioned why video calls couldn’t be used in the long-term.
The Home Office went back on its pledge for temporary video checks to be confirmed with full in-person checks at the end of the Covid crisis. The government insisted this was not necessary, reflecting ‘the length of time the adjusted checks have been in place’ as well as a desire to help ‘landlords during these difficult times’.
Right to Rent and Brexit – what is changing?
Another anticipated hurdle for landlords and agents is Brexit. Since the end of the transition phase, there has been a grace period on Right to Rent checks which allowed eligible European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss citizens who were residing in the UK before the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to apply for settled status – an opportunity that has since ended on June 30.
From 1 July 2021, EEA citizens and their family members require immigration status in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals. This means they can no longer rely on an EEA passport or a national ID card to prove their right to rent property in the UK.
This change does not affect Irish nationals, who can continue to rely on their passports to show their right to rent in the UK.
There is hope that this new system is going to improve things and make checks easier for landlords and agents – with less onus now on the agent. If the person you are letting to is not a British citizen, they have a code to check so the whole process is more accurate and speedier. At present, it’s sometimes unclear whether they have the right to rent, and there is hope this will fix things.
Here at Oakfield, we are able to educate our landlords on the changes to know where they stand, as the whole process can often be confusing and complex.
There are also expected to be further issues moving forward. Prior to the deadline, campaigners pointed to a backlog of over 300,000 applications in the UK’s post-Brexit settlement scheme and urged an extension beyond June 30 to allow these applications to be processed.
However, there was a danger that with many still waiting to be approved, the status of a huge number of people would be unknown or in a state of limbo. This would prove a massive issue for letting agents and landlords whose job it is to check the legal right to tenants to rent in the UK.
Getting the check-in process right
With the matter still essentially up in the air, letting agents and landlords must remain diligent when carrying out Right to Rent checks.
Currently, landlords can conduct an online check by accessing the Home Office online service ‘View a tenant’s right to rent in England’ on gov.uk.
The online service allows checks to be carried out by video call, and landlords do not need to see physical List A/B documents as the right to rent information is provided in real-time, directly from Home Office systems.
The new draft code of practice on Right to Rent checks in force from July 1 2021 can be viewed here.
Here at Oakfield Estate Agents, we will do all we can to help you let your home successfully, using our years of knowledge and experience to help you manage homes in East Sussex rental hotspots like Eastbourne and Hastings.
For further information on how to manage the lettings process, please get in touch with us today or read more about our letting agents service here. You can also request a free instant online valuation to see how much your East Sussex property could be generating in rent each month.