Letting agents will not be able to comply with Right to Rent checks in accordance with existing expectations from the government when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, Propertymark has warned.
The trade association has written to the Home Office to highlight its concerns that agents simply will not be equipped to repeat Right to Rent checks completed during the lockdown period.
The guidance rolled out in March states that agents can conduct adjusted checks via video call but must go back and conduct retrospective checks within eight weeks of the Home Office announcing that the temporary measures are ending.
Recent sampling of members showed that the vast majority of Right to Rent checks carried out since March have been conducted using the adjusted process in order to comply with public health guidance.
When adjusted checks were introduced, all parties expected them to be in place for a few weeks, however as the public health crisis has stretched on, the guidance has been in force for almost nine months and in that time, thousands of new tenancies have been set up across England, with many more tenancies completing the same arrangements for follow up checks for tenants with time-limited Right to Rent status.
Evidence of routine follow-up checks, shows that tenants will not understand the need for a retrospective check and therefore will not attend offices to take part, leaving agents vulnerable to civil penalties if and when they need to provide a statutory excuse.
Given the volume of checks that will now have built up, the requirement for an audit trail of activity alongside adjusted checks for the same tenancies, and the juxtaposition with other developments in Right to Rent caused by the end of the Brexit transition period, the majority of agents will simply fail to comply with the requirement to deliver retrospective checks, according to Timothy Douglas, Propertymark policy and campaigns manager.
He said: “With the time that has now lapsed since the introduction of adjusted checks, it is essential that the Home Office accepts adjusted Right to Rent checks on tenancies that started during the public health crisis.
“Phase three rollout of Right to Rent checks for tenancies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been indefinitely postponed. Letting agents have worked really hard to support tenants throughout recent months, maintaining properties and moving tenants safely. This is an opportunity to respond to the needs of tenants, landlords and agents by removing the need for unnecessary, duplicate checks and allowing the sector to focus on meeting other legal requirements and supporting progress towards to the new points-based immigration system through the first half of 2021.”
See below, the letter to the Home Office, on behalf of Propertymark, regarding Right to Rent checks.
Kevin Foster MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Minister for Future Borders and Immigration
2 Marsham Street
17 November 2020
Dear Mr Foster,
Re: Right to Rent checks
I am writing to express Propertymark’s concerns about anticipated and widespread failure in
compliance with Right to Rent checks in the coming months. To this end, we wish to highlight the
practical arrangements for the return of in-person Right to Rent checks and the need for clear
acceptance of adjusted checks on tenancies that were signed since the start of the pandemic.
Propertymark represents nearly 8,000 letting agents in England and is a member of the Home Office’s
Right to Rent Consultative Panel. Letting agents have worked hard to support tenants and manage
tenancies safely throughout the public health crisis.
When guidance on adjusted checks was introduced, all parties expected the measure to be temporary
and understood that checks would need to be repeated in-person when temporary guidance was
revoked. However, temporary guidance has now been in place for eight months and in that time,
thousands of tenancies have been set up using adjusted checks.
Within eight weeks of the temporary Right to Rent measures being lifted, the guidance states that
letting agents ‘will also need to carry out full retrospective checks on tenants who started their
tenancy during this period’. Recent sampling of our members has shown that almost all Right to Rent
checks in that period have been carried out using the adjusted check method, in order to comply with
public health guidance. Given the volume of checks that will now have built up, the majority of letting
agents and landlords will undoubtedly fail to comply with the requirement to deliver retrospective
There are a number of reasons for this:
• Tenants will not understand the importance of complying with a repeat check (despite the efforts
of letting agents), they will believe they have already provided documents for a check and will not
invest time in attending a branch for a retrospective, duplicate check. Letting agents report that
even prior to Covid-19, tenants resented attending a branch for a repeat Right to Rent check and
did not understand the rationale.
• A widespread education campaign will be needed to highlight the need for retrospective checks
to reach landlords whose properties are not managed by a professional letting agent.
• Additionally, each check requires images to be stored and if the number of checks is doubled, the
cumulative effect on file storage for corporate agencies is unmanageable.
If letting agents and landlords are required to generate in person Right to Rent checks and maintain
an audit trail of activity alongside adjusted checks for the same tenancies, this will coincide with a number of other developments in Right to Rent. For instance, letting agents will be adopting new
digital checks for overseas applicants while also accommodating full in person checks including those
for overseas nationals who elect to use other forms of identity documents. Additionally, letting agents
and landlords will be managing the transition between December 2020 and June 2021 of applicants
who have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme. While we understand that EU Citizens will
have until 30 June to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, there is likely to be some confusion that
renting to (and renewing a tenancy for) an EU citizen could lead to a civil penalty. Previous acceptance
of freedom of movement means that letting agents will not have records of the nationality of existing
tenants who have been cleared for a permanent Right to Rent.
In this context, and with the time that has now lapsed since the introduction of adjusted checks, it is
essential that the Home Office moves to accept adjusted Right to Rent checks on tenancies that
started during the period under which the public health crisis requires minimal face to face dealings.
On behalf of our members, I ask that you consider the benefits to tenants, landlords and letting agents
of removing the need for retrospective, duplicate checks in order to ensure that landlords and letting
agents can meet their legal requirements and support moves to the new points based immigration
system through the first half of 2021.
I look forward to hearing from you.