Right to rent: Temporary changes to process during Covid-19

31 March 2020

Right to checks can be carried out over video calls and tenants can supply scanned copies or photos of documents, after the government introduced temporary changes to the process as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This article was published on 31 March 2020. Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.

The government has temporarily adjusted the process for carrying out right to rent checks due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, allowing checks to be carried out over video calls and tenants to supply scanned copies or photos of documents rather than providing originals. The temporary measures came into effect on 30 March 2020 and were outlined in the government’s guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks.

To carry out a right to rent check under the temporary coronavirus measures, you will need to:

  • Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents by email or using a mobile app.
  • Arrange a video call with the tenant and ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy they supplied of the documents.
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.

Some tenants may be unable to evidence their right to rent as a result of the pandemic, notes the guidance. If a tenant cannot provide documents from the prescribed lists you must contact the Landlord’s Checking Service. You’ll receive a response within two days, which you must keep to protect against a civil penalty.

Free tenant checklist: Preparing for referencing

When the temporary measures are lifted - the date for which has not yet been specified - retrospective right to rent checks will need to be carried out on tenants who either started their tenancy during this period or required a follow-up check during this period. Retrospective checks should be:

  • Marked as: “the individual’s tenancy agreement commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to rent check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”
  • Carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. 

Both checks should be kept for your records.

Right to rent checks “continue to be necessary,” emphasises the guidance, and it’s essential that you check tenants have the right to rent before starting a tenancy. “It remains an offence to knowingly lease premises to a person who is not lawfully in the UK.”

This article is based on the government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks. It is intended as a guide only, is not exhaustive, and should not be considered legal advice.

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