Government update on right to rent

UK landlords affected by assessing tenants Right to Rent have received another update from the Home Office on how to conduct the checks. We take a look at the latest instructions.

Landlords across the UK could be forgiven for being slightly overwhelmed by the number of updates coming from the government on Right to Rent. The previous update was only issued in March. But, the flow hasn’t stopped yet, and there are further instructions effective from 6th April 2022.

The latest version of the “Landlord’s guide to right to rent checks” document comprises 86 pages. It includes dedicated information covering the introduction of visa schemes brought into support Ukranian nationals fleeing the war with Russia.

What does this Right to Rent update cover?

This round of guidance covers how to prevent liability for a civil penalty. The guidance is for landlords, letting agents or homeowners, renting out privately let property.

As a point of order, it is noted that the Right to Rent Scheme only applies to “to residential tenancy agreements first entered into on or after 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, and on or after 1 February 2016 in the rest of England.”

The update focusses on changes to the following residence cards and work permits, and how those who hold them prove their right to rent in England:

  • Biometric Residence Card (BRC)
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
  • Frontier Worker Permit (FWPs)

Also covered is:

  • A range of changes to the lists of documents that are accepted in the process of proving the right to rent
  • Changes and more detail on use of Identity Service Providers to carry out Right to Rent checks
  • An extension of the temporary Covid-19 adjusted right to work checks, which now ends on 30th September 2022

Liability for civil penalties

Fundamentally, responsibility falls to the landlord when it comes to the Right to Rent Scheme, however, this liability can be transferred to a letting agent.

Where tenants sub-let a property, they will be deemed the landlord and responsible party for establishing the right to rent of those they sub-let to, or those they take in as lodgers.

Sitting tenants

If you purchase a property with sitting tenants, you are advised to get confirmation from the previous landlord that right to rent checks have been undertaken and secure and retain copies of documents that were checked at the time of the check. It is important to also establish if follow up checks are required, and when they become due ensure that you have and maintain a ‘statutory excuse’ against a penalty.

The ‘statutory excuse’ is described within the documentation.

It is important to note that, if the tenancy began before the Right to Rent Scheme came into force (see above for the dates which were either December 2014 or February 2016, depending on your geographic location) you don’t need to undertake checks on right to rent. Given this is reliant on the date of the start of the tenancy, you should get a copy of the tenancy to establish this is the case.

If a sitting tenant didn’t have the right to rent when they started the tenancy, the original landlord will be the party liable for the civil penalty, and not the new landlord taking on the tenants.

Find out more on right to rent

Read the full guidance on the government website here.