Coronavirus (COVID-19): landlord right to rent checks

Advice for landlords carrying out right to rent checks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This update replaces previous guidance issued on 12 May 2021.

As a result of the government’s announcement on 14 June 2021 to extend the date for the easing of lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures, the temporary COVID-19 adjusted right to rent checks will now end on 31 August 2021. From 1 September 2021, landlords and letting agents will revert to face-to-face and physical document checks as set out in legislation and guidance. This will ensure landlords and letting agents have sufficient notice to put measures in place to enable face-to-face document checks.

Updated advice for landlords carrying out right to rent checks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The following temporary changes were made on 30 March 2020 and remain in place until 31 August 2021 (inclusive).

  • checks can currently be carried out over video calls
  • tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • landlords should use the Landlord Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the accepted documents

Checks continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents set out in Landlords Guide to Right to Rent or use the online right to rent checking service. It remains an offence to knowingly rent to a person who does not have the right to rent in the UK.

Checking an individual’s right to rent during the temporary COVID-19 measures

Up to and including 31 August 2021, if you are carrying out a temporary adjusted check, you must:

  • ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
  • record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • if the tenant has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system you can use the online right to rent service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details

End of temporary adjustments

The temporary adjustments to Right to Rent checks due to COVID-19 are ending.

From 1 September 2021 you must either:

Due to the impact of COVID-19 some individuals may struggle to show evidence of their right to rent in England. As a result, you must make sure a tenant is not discriminated against because they are unable to show you their documents. For more information, please see the code of practice for landlords: Avoiding unlawful discrimination when conducting ‘right to rent’ checks in the private rented residential sector.

Online right to rent service

The Home Office right to rent online service gives you a defence against a civil penalty. You don’t need to see or check the individual’s documents, as right to rent information is provided in real time directly from Home Office systems.

Landlords cannot insist individuals use this service or discriminate against those who choose to use their documents to prove their right to rent.

Retrospective checks

You do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 (inclusive). This reflects the length of time the adjusted checks have been in place and supports landlords during this difficult time.

You will maintain a defence against a civil penalty if the check you have undertaken during this period was done in the prescribed manner or as set out in the COVID-19 adjusted checks guidance.

If a tenant does not have the right documents

You must contact the Home Office Landlord Checking Service if the tenant cannot provide the right documents. Once you have submitted your request to the Landlord Checking Service you will get an answer within 2 working days. You must keep this response to protect against a civil penalty.

Published 30 March 2020
Last updated 18 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated as the end date for the temporary adjusted checking processes is now 31 August 2021.

  2. Updated as the end date for the temporary adjusted checking processes is now 21 June.

  3. Updated as the temporary adjustments introduced because of coronavirus end on 16 May 2021.

  4. First published.