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Legal changes

From 1 July 2021, there will be important changes for applicable landlords and letting agents in England.

The grace period during which eligible EEA and Swiss (EEA) citizens and their family members, resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) ends on 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021, there will be important changes for applicable landlords and letting agents in England.

Landlords and letting agents managing properties must undertake right to rent checks, where applicable. The Immigration Act 2014 places a duty to carry out a right to rent check on each letting. The provisions apply to private rented accommodation used as the occupier's only or main home. The checks do not apply to any new letting or transfer made directly by or through the local authority (e.g. via the waiting list, a nomination agreement or arising from a homelessness or social services duty). There are some other exceptions, such as lettings to asylum seekers provided via the Home Office and lettings to students, who have been nominated by their educational establishment.

Right to rent checks must be carried out as set out in the government’s Code of Practice. Recently, the government confirmed how landlords and letting agents will check the right to rent status of EEA citizens following the end of the EUSS grace period. Until now, prospective EEA tenants have been treated in the same way as British citizens. From 1 July 2021, right to rent checks will be based on immigration status and not national identification. So, EEA citizens will no longer be able to rely on their passport or national ID card to evidence their right to rent property in the UK.

Prospective tenants who successfully applied to the EUSS or for a UK visa will need to provide evidence of their immigration status. Many EEA citizens who applied to the EUSS by 30 June 2021 will have digital evidence of their UK immigration status. They will be able to evidence their right to rent by sharing their immigration status digitally, using the Home Office online right to rent service.

EEA citizens who have physical evidence of their immigration status should have one of the documents that are included in the prescribed List A and B, as outlined in the government user guide for tenants and landlords.

Those entering the UK as a visitor or business visitor using e-gates (nationals of the EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and USA), will be granted automatic leave to enter for up to six months. They will not have a document to evidence their status in the UK. These individuals can use a combination of their passport and evidence of entry to the UK to demonstrate a right to rent for up to six months.

The Home Office is clear that retrospective checks on existing EEA tenants will not be required. The new code of practice applies to initial right to rent checks conducted only on or after 1 July 2021, and repeat checks required on or after that date. Checks conducted by 30 June 2021 establish an ‘unlimited’ right to rent, including where a tenancy starts on or after 1 July 2021 but the check was completed before that date.

Further information can be found in the government’s new Landlords' guide to right to rent checks.

It is crucial that landlords and letting agencies keep up with any relevant regulatory changes. If you are found to be renting to someone who does not have the right to rent, and you have not conducted the checks as set out in the code of practice, you may face sanctions including a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per disqualified person and in the most serious cases, a criminal conviction carrying a prison sentence.

If you need advice on the EU Settlement Scheme, contact our immigration solicitors. Alternatively, contact our team of landlord and tenant experts, headed by Andrea Stevenson, Partner.