Warning to anyone who rents or lets a home as new laws set to come into force in April

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The beginning of April will signal the introduction of new laws which will effect those who want to rent or let properties. The government is set to change the way that tenants’ identities are checked by landlords or letting agents, to make sure that they are legally eligible to rent a home.

Anyone who wants to let a property is expected to carry out a ‘right to rent’ check every time they want to take on a new tenant, reports Manchester Evening News. Before the start of a new tenancy, landlords must check the identity of all occupants aged 18 and over to ensure they are eligible to rent a home. It is a similar checking process to presenting your passport or visa to a border control officer at an immigration checkpoint.

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Before the start of a new tenancy, landlords must check the identity of all occupants aged 18 and over to ensure they are eligible to rent a home

The process of checking a tenant’s right to rent was temporarily changed due to Covid-19. Tenants are currently asked to submit a scanned copy of their original identity documents via email. Then during a video call they must hold up their original documents to the camera so that the landlord can check them against the digital copy.

The government recently announced that these temporary checks can be carried out up to and including September 30, 2022. Only tenants that live in social housing, a care home, hospice, hospital, hostel, refuge a mobile home or student accommodation do not need to be checked.

It is against the law for landlords to only check people they think are not British citizens as the government states ‘you must not discriminate against anyone because of where they’re from’. But key changes coming into effect next month now mean that some right to rent checks will be conducted online only and certain forms of identification will no longer be acceptable.

The gov.uk website states that from April 6 2022, all biometric residence card holders and permit holders will have to show their identity using the Home Office online service only. Landlords will no longer be able to accept physical cards for these right to rent checks even if it shows a later expiry date.

There are also major legal implications for anyone who does not follow the new laws.

David Smith, partner at JMW Solicitor law firm, which has a base in Manchester, explained: “The changes are a major move to online checks whereby Biometric Residence Cards and Permits and Frontier Worker Permits will all no longer be acceptable for Right to Rent checks in England and anyone presenting with one of these will have to be checked using the Government’s online service.

“For the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland, the Home Office will require the tenant to register with a certified identity service provider (IDSP) and then for that provider to provide agents and landlords with a check using Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT).”

“What is not clear is whether tenants might potentially have to register with multiple ID checking services as there are bound to be more than one such provider in the market,” David added. “It also potentially opens up a new avenue of discrimination in the Right to Rent system as those tenants who cannot register easily or elect not to will find it harder to rent property because agents will want to deal with tenants that they can quickly check with minimal risk.

“There is also a tightening of the rules around EU nationals and landlords who will now have to validate their documents using the Home Office Landlord Checking Service. For landlords the changes present the challenge of incorporating all of this into their processes and ensuring that their staff are aware of the myriad complex checking mechanisms to ensure they avoid discrimination.”

From September 2022, legislation will also change to allow landlords and letting agents to outsource right to rent checks to Identity Service Providers (IDSPs).

IDSPs will then digitally check the identity and eligibility of British and Irish citizens to rent a property in England.

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