The Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) (Amendment) Order 2020 introduces an online service which should make it easier for letting agents and landlords to check potential tenants for residency status.
Under the new rules, which involve relatively minor changes in management practice, new entrants to the UK will have an online page which includes their photograph and details of their right to work and rent. Landlords and agents will then need to verify that the photograph on the web page is of the correct person and also keep a copy of that web page for 12 months after the end of the tenancy.
The government says that,
“Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Immigration Act 2014 (“the Act”) provides a statutory excuse for landlords and their agents from being required to pay a civil penalty if they conduct prescribed eligibility checks on prospective occupiers and those occupiers who are renewing their tenancy agreements.”
“Allowing those without a lawful right to be in the UK to rent property supports people to establish a settled life in the UK, rather than to make provision to return to their home country. This creates a significant cost to the public purse, including through the provision of local authority support, and also reduces the amount of housing stock available to those who are lawfully residing in the UK… The legislation underpinning the Scheme extends across the whole of the UK. However, the legislation currently only applies in England.”
This is the third version of the Code of Practice on right to rent: a civil penalty scheme for landlords and their agents (September 2020). It applies from 2 November 2020.
Landlord and agents should make themselves familiar with this new version of the code which must be applied to all right to rent checks from that date, including where a follow-up check is required to maintain a statutory excuse which was established using a previous version of the code, current at that time.
B5JSSK nationals (those from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA) holding a passport, who also have a paper or electronic document (such as a boarding pass) showing entry into the UK within the last six months, have a right to rent. They can also get an approval via the Landlord Checking Service. This will, as normal, give them a 12 month right to rent even though they only get a six-month visa as of right.
From the outset, Right to Rent has received criticism from the landlord community, it’s an added task they don’t see as their responsibility, to be policing the borders, but when all things are considered, who else could do it?
These changes are relatively minor and should make the landlord’s or agent’s task easier. There are likely to be more substantial changes next year as the UK moves towards the proposed “points based immigration system”.
It is then likely that EEA and Swiss nationals will be downgraded to being of similar immigration status to other countries for which the UK normally allows time-limited visa free access (as opposed to unlimited visa free access) with the option to extend in certain circumstances.
Here is a Summary of changes in the new issue of the code of practice:
The new code of practice was updated for the 2 November 2020 and updates the version of the code issued in May 2016. The updates relate to:
- the introduction of online right to rent checks
- the use of the combination of a passport, plus proof of arrival within the last six months (for example a physical or electronic plane/boat/train ticket or boarding pass) for visitor nationals from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore to demonstrate a right to rent
- an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to include Home Office documents issued to third-country family members of EEA nationals, which show the length of leave granted to such persons (both time limited and indefinite)
- an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to remove the requirement that a UK birth or adoption certificate must be the full (long) certificate. A short or a long birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland are now acceptable documents to demonstrate a right to rent
- further minor amendments and technical changes to the presentation of the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule making it simpler for landlords to conduct the initial and follow-up checks
Agents and landlords should review the new code and keep their eyes on the changing picture for the Right to Rent. There remains a lighter-touch regime in place for Right to Rent during the Covid pandemic as well which agents and landlords should be aware of.