Changes to the mandatory right to rent checks which were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will now end on 31/08/2021, extended from 17/05/2021 and 21/06/2021. The further extension follows the government’s announcement on 14/06/2021 to extend the date for the easing of lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures.

Pre-Pandemic Position

Prior to the pandemic, a landlord had to meet all prospective tenants in person and check original documents from a specific set listed by the Government.

If the landlord was satisfied as to the identity and right to rent of the prospective tenant, they were to keep a copy of the documents and could then sign a tenancy agreement with them.

These documents were to be kept for 12 months after the tenant had left the property.

Temporary Pandemic Changes

Since 30/03/2020, the Government has allowed right to rent checks to be performed by reviewing scanned copies or photos of the documents via email or phone and checking the authenticity of those documents via a video call with the prospective tenant.

The landlord must mark a copy of the scanned document/photo with the phrase “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19” if satisfied the tenant has a right to rent.

Post-Pandemic Position

From 31/08/2021 (extended from 17/05/2021 and 21/06/2021), landlords will need to revert to the original pre-pandemic position for right to rent checks, as outlined above (‘Pre-Pandemic Position’).

Alternatively, landlords can use the new digital system set up by the Government during the pandemic whereby a ‘share code’ is obtained by the prospective tenant and given to their potential landlord. Using the share code and prospective tenant’s date of birth, landlords will be able to verify the prospective tenant’s identity online.

It is good to note that, due to the length of the Temporary Pandemic Changes, landlords will not be expected to carry out follow-up checks in person for any tenancies where the temporary rules were followed.

So, could I be fined if I have only undertaken an adjusted check?

No, if you have carried out an adjusted check in the prescribed manner set out above (Temporary Pandemic Changes) between 30/03/2020 and 31/08/2021, you have a defence against a civil penalty.

However, should a tenant with a time-limited right to rent require a follow-up check on or after 01/09/2021, you must ensure the follow-up check is undertaken in accordance with the ‘Post-Pandemic Position’, also outlined above.

What if I carry out an adjusted check on a tenant before 31/08/2021 but their tenancy begins on or after 01/09/2021?

This is lawful as the temporary adjustments remain in place until 31/08/2021. However, landlords should always seek to ensure the security and integrity of their right to rent checks.

Therefore, if there are opportunities to safely carry out the standard right to rent checks (see Post-Pandemic Position) in advance of the Temporary Pandemic Changes coming to an end, then you should. This is especially to be encouraged where a tenancy agreement does not start until on or after 01/09/2021.

And does the criminal offence remain in force?

Yes – it remains an offence to knowingly let property to an illegal migrant.

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