Online Right to Rent checks launch later this month

Right to Rent checks can be carried out online and in real time from 25 November 2020 onwards. Under the new scheme, landlords will be able to conduct checks on whether prospective tenants are permitted to rent using a Home Office webpage (not yet live).

For now, the online checking service will only be available for EEA nationals and their family members who have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme; non-EEA nationals with a biometric residence permit, and Points Based System migrants. For anyone else, documents will still need to be checked manually or by putting in a request to the Landlord Checking Service if they have no documents. 

How will it work?

How it works is set out in new guidance for landlords on Right to Rent checks. As with online Right to Work checks, the system involves the prospective tenant giving permission to the prospective landlord to view their Home Office immigration record by providing a “share code”.

Using this share code and the person’s date of birth, the landlord can then log in to the website to check whether the prospective tenant matches the picture shown online. No physical documents are needed, but the guidance is clear that the check itself needs to be done in the presence of the prospective tenant or by video link.

The system should confirm whether the renter has “continuous” or “time-limited” Right to Rent. The landlord will need to retain either a printed or electronic copy of the profile page during the tenancy. 

The guidance also warns landlords that: “If you enter in to a tenancy agreement with someone on the basis of the online check, but it is reasonably apparent that the person in the photograph on the online service is not the prospective tenant, you may be liable for a penalty if they do not have the right to rent”.

Who does it help?

The Home Office is trying to reduce the “burden” placed on those who, like landlords, are now expected to act as Immigration Enforcement officers. It was because of this burden that the National Residential Landlords Association intervened in the JCWI case challenging Right to Rent.

As noted by the Court of Appeal in its judgment earlier this year, the Right to Rent scheme has led to massive discrimination against migrants across the rental sector. But the court held that the discrimination was justified by the public interest in immigration control. It also held that any adverse effect on individuals was outweighed by the scheme’s “public benefits” in controlling immigration. So for now the scheme remains lawful, at least until the Supreme Court has its say. 

The online process will likely make things a lot easier for some of those who have struggled in the rental sector. For computer-literate people whose immigration status is straightforward, this will speed things up considerably. But things remain as tricky as ever for those whose immigration situations aren’t so clear and landlords faced with sanctions and administrative delays will continue to be put off from renting to them in favor of white British renters.

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