With just weeks to go until Britain officially leaves the European Union, landlords across England will be considering the impact of Brexit on the right to rent.
Since its implementation in 2016, right to rent legislation means landlords in England are now responsible for ensuring that prospective tenants applying to live in their property have the legal right to do so – and they face harsh penalties should they fail to carry out the right checks.
The uncertainty over Brexit means its impact on right to rent regulations remains unclear, but we’ve put together the below to help clarify what we know so far.
Right to rent legislation: The current requirements
All landlords in England are required to check the right to rent for all adult tenants – basically that any applicant over the age of 18 and who wishes to rent their home is legally allowed to do so, in accordance with immigration laws.
Although some tenants remain exempt from these checks – including those living in social housing, a care home or student accommodation – the majority of landlords must carry out these checks, even if they believe the applicants to be British citizens.
Landlords must check one or more original documents in the presence of the applicant (either in person or via a live video link) before allowing them to live in the property. Landlords must also make copies of the document, to be kept for 12 months after the tenancy expires.
Acceptable documents include:
-Biometric Residence Permit with unlimited leave
-UK immigration status document endorsed with unlimited leave
The full list is much longer and can be found here.
If the prospective tenant does not have the required documents, then the official landlord’s checking service should be used, which will provide an answer within two working days.
A landlord failing to comply with any of the above faces an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence.
Brexit and the right to rent: what do we know?
The uncertainty around Brexit – and particularly the possibility of a no-deal – means it is still very difficult to predict what will happen for both landlords and foreign nationals looking to rent when the UK leaves the EU.
The rights of EU citizens after Brexit has been at the heart of the debate since the referendum result was announced back in June 2016, and the potential for further changes to rental regulations continues to be a big talking point.
One thing that remains likely to come into force under any deal is the 21-month transition period, meaning the UK’s relationship with the EU will generally remain the same until the end of December 2020.
During this time, EU citizens living in the UK will be able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, which will allow them to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.
The Government has said that in this period, EU nationals applying for settled status will be able to use the same documents as currently required in order to rent a property – so in theory, nothing should change when it comes to right to rent regulations for a while yet.
A no-deal Brexit: right to rent legislation
Many industry professionals have raised concerns that the lack of guidance around what will happen to EU citizens after Brexit is already impacting landlords’ decisions when it comes to choosing tenants or extending their tenancies.
Residential Landlords Association Policy Director, David Smith, said “Landlords and tenants need urgent clarification from the government on the rights that EU nationals will have to rent property immediately after the UK leaves the EU, especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
He believes this could mean EU citizens living in the UK are at risk of losing their rental homes if they are unable to quickly and easily confirm their status post-Brexit.
Brexit and the right to rent: Potential changes
One change which may be implemented post-Brexit is the introduction of a digital checking service.
A white paper back in December suggested this would enable prospective tenants to view and ‘verify’ their immigrations status, meaning landlords could confirm the applicant’s eligibility to rent far more quickly. This would mean that those renting to foreign nationals from the EU would no longer need to manually check the documents which are currently required under the right to rent legislation.
Brexit and the rental market: a complex picture
There’s no denying that both landlords and EU tenants have many unanswered questions when it comes to Brexit and right to rent legislation, largely down to the fact that a deal has not yet been decided upon. The 29th March 2019 should bring a clearer picture and provide the answers both parties really need.