The automation of Right to Rent checks should now be normal practice to take the pressure off landlords, agents and tenants.
That’s the claim made by anti-money laundering experts Blinc UK, which includes automated Right to Rent verification as part of its services.
With recent changes to Right to Rent, due to Covid-19 and Brexit, compliance has become more important than ever. But keeping on top of what is expected of landlords and agents can prove difficult, Blinc says.
“Right to Rent checks might not be very well-liked, but they are a necessary evil and something that doesn’t have to be as painful as it’s made out to be if you have the right processes in place to automate these checks,” Daniel Leeson, director at Blinc UK, comments.
“By automating the process, and taking the stress and hassle away from landlords and agents, it means they don’t even have to think about compliance – this is done automatically for them.”
“This means they can get on with the other important work that helps a tenancy run smoothly and don’t need to have that niggling feeling that they haven’t carried out Right to Rent correctly.”
What has changed?
Right to Rent has been brought back into the spotlight by the two major stories of the last few years – Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The controversial measures, which sees landlords or their agents required to check the legal right to rent of their tenants in the UK before letting a home to them, were first rolled out across England in February 2016 after trials in the West Midlands.
Some have argued they require landlords and agents to act as de facto border guards, and there have been regular calls to scrap the checks.
This hasn’t happened – however, the measures have been altered by Covid and Brexit. Due to the pandemic, landlords and letting agents have been able to carry out the checks via video call rather than in-person – a measure which was most recently extended until the end of August.
It has already been extended a number of times to reflect the fast-changing situation with the pandemic.
Given the apparent success of the new system – with no obvious breaches or issues as a result of the video checks – some have called for this way of doing things, or a hybrid system, to be a permanent option even as society unlocks.
Secondly, the end of the Brexit grace period on June 30 has meant changes to how landlords and agents check the right to rent of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals. They must now check the immigration status of EU nationals rather than their passport.
“From this point, if someone is an EEA, EU, or Swiss national, you will need to see evidence of their UK immigration status rather than their national identification,” guidance from trade body ARLA Propertymark has advised.
The organisation said that those EEA citizens resident in the UK who have made an application for settled status will have been provided with digital evidence of their UK immigration status.
They can now evidence their Right to Rent by sharing their immigration status digitally, using the Home Office’s online Right to Rent service.
Introduced in December 2020, the digital checks enable the applicant to provide a share code and their date of birth.
This information is then inputted to reveal a status of unlimited or time limited status to remain.
But other EEA and Swiss citizens will have different evidence of their status in the UK, typically held in a physical document such as a visa.
“The terms of the Brexit divorce bill were quite clear in saying that EU citizens already living in the UK by the end of 2020 can remain with guaranteed rights, with the right to apply for permanent residence after five years, assuming they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme,” Leeson adds.
“But, since July 1, those who didn’t apply, or still haven’t had their application processed, face losing essential rights they have taken for granted up until now, including the right to live in rental accommodation in the UK.”
There have been concerns that hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting in a backlog of the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme – still waiting for their status to be confirmed.
This means there could be many people still unsure of their status and their right to rent for some months yet, which in turn could put landlords and agents in a difficult position.
How can an automated system help?
Landlords and agents shouldn’t have to worry about Right to Rent checks, even with the fast-changing situation brought about by Covid and Brexit, because it should all be happening smoothly in the background.
“Automating the process means landlords and agents don’t even need to give it a second thought – it’s done for them, as part of the overall compliance process,” Leeson says.
“Not all software providers include Right to Rent checks as part of their package, so it’s vital that agents partner with a company that does to ensure full compliance and peace of mind for their landlords.”
Blinc has been carrying out Right to Rent status checks as standard on all references since the introduction of right to rent in the UK over five years ago, and have now updated this process to automate the new Home Office digital share code system.
“Our process walks the tenant though their requirements, establishing which documents they need and guiding them how to get documents if they do not have the correct paperwork,” Leeson explains.
“We also assist the tenants on gaining their settled status with links through to the government site and explanations on screen explaining the process and change of requirements for EEA individuals.”
Blinc says it would like to take this further and utilise its non-face-to-face “liveness check” AML service into the right to rent, which would mean that agents would no longer need to worry about meeting prospective tenants face to face, as the software would be able to authenticate document validity, customer identity and their right to rent status.
“But this does require the government to make the current process a permanent procedure,” Leeson concludes.