The Right to Rent Scheme was launched to ensure only those lawfully in the country can access the private rental sector, and to tackle unscrupulous landlords who exploit vulnerable migrants, sometimes in very poor conditions. Right to rent checks are straightforward and apply equally to everyone seeking accommodation in the private rental sector, including British citizens. In April, the Court of Appeal ruling confirmed the Right to Rent Scheme to be lawful. Following this judgment, we committed to work with landlords and letting agents to make it easier for lawful residents to demonstrate their right to rent, and to strengthen the support we provide to landlords when complying with the requirements of the Right to Rent Scheme.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) said in this House, we have accepted the important findings in the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, including those in relation to the compliant environment. Urgent and extensive work is taking place across the Home Office, including a full evaluation of the Right to Rent Scheme. In parallel, we are working on improvements to the scheme.
In November, the Home Office will be launching a new online right to rent checking service. This service builds on the successful introduction of the online checking services, for employers conducting right to work checks, holders of a biometric residence permit and those granted status under the EU settlement scheme.
We have worked closely with landlords and letting agents in designing the service, but we need to change right to rent legislation to enable them to rely on the new online service to discharge their legal responsibilities under the scheme.
Today, I have laid before Parliament the Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) (Amendment) Order 2020.
Landlords will be able to undertake a right to rent check in real time for non-EEA citizens with a valid biometric resident permit or card, or an EEA citizen with status granted under the EU settlement scheme. In addition, the order makes sure that landlords will be able to undertake online checks on those whose leave will be granted under the new points-based system.
The online service makes it simpler for landlords to carry out the checks and protects them. It allows checks to be carried out by video call, and landlords will not need to see documents as the right to rent information is provided in real time directly from Home Office systems.
The service works on the basis of the individual first viewing their own Home Office profile. They may then share this information with a landlord if they wish, by providing the landlord with a “share code”, which can be used to access the prospective tenant’s record. This authorisation represents an important safeguard and means landlords will only be able to view an individual’s right to rent information, and no other unrelated personal information.
Landlords will be able to undertake either the online check or the existing document-based check; online checks will, therefore, be a voluntary option while migrants and landlords develop familiarity with the new service and take-up becomes more widespread. EEA citizens will continue to be able to demonstrate their entitlement to rent to landlords by showing a valid passport or national ID card until 30 June 2021.
The Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) (Amendment) Order 2020 also makes a number of other important changes to improve the operation of the scheme for landlords and tenants and to simplify the presentation of the list of prescribed documents.
It amends the document list for non-visa national visitors from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA who enter the UK using an ePassport gate.
The order enables new documents issued to third-country-national family members granted status under the EU settlement scheme to be accepted by landlords and letting agents as evidence of a right to rent.
It also amends the list of documents that are deemed acceptable under the existing manual “right to rent” check to include a short UK birth and adoption certificate as well as the long versions of these documents, making it easier for British citizens who do not hold a passport to demonstrate their right to rent.
Finally, the order amends and updates the existing statutory code of practice to reflect these important changes which will improve the operation of the Right to Rent Scheme. A draft of the revised code of practice has also been laid before Parliament.