Right to Rent Checks and COVID-19

Landlords will be aware that under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords are required to check that their tenants have the legal right to rent in England.  This has been in force since 2016 and applies to all residential tenancy agreements entered into on or after 1 February 2016.

The Immigration Act introduced a criminal offence if landlords or their agents fail to conduct right to rent checks or to take steps to remove illegal immigrants from their properties. It can result in imprisonment and/or a fine.  It can also result in a civil penalty of up to £3,000.

Ordinarily, landlords are checking passports and other identifying documents (a full list of the acceptable documents can be found on the government’s website) and taking copies for their records.

In the current situation, this could prove problematic.  From 30 March 2020, the right to rent checks have been temporarily adjusted to make it easier for landlords to carry out these checks.

The adjustments that have been made are as follows:


  • Checks can be carried out over video call rather than in person and tenants should be asked to hold the original documents up to the camera and these should be checked against a digital copy that the tenants should be asked to send
  • Tenants can send scanned documents or a photograph of documents for checks rather than sending originals.


For the landlord’s records, the documents should be marked “An adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19”.

The government will advise as to when these temporary measures will end.  At this point, retrospective checks will need to be undertaken within 8 weeks of the Covid-19 measures ending, that fully comply with the Immigration Act.

The retrospective check should then me marked “The individual’s tenancy agreement commenced on [insert date].  The prescribed right to rent check was undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19”

No retrospective check needs to be undertaken where the original check was done using the original documentation.

When the retrospective check is undertaken, if it transpires that the tenant did not have the right to rent then the landlord must take the relevant steps to end the tenancy immediately.

Should you have any questions please email Fiona Squire or complete the contact form and Fiona will call you back.

The content of this article is correct as at the date of posting and is for information purposes only. Whilst we try and ensure it is accurate we do not warrant or guarantee that this is the case, nor do we accept any responsibility in the event that it is relied on. The information is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice which you are recommended to obtain.

Back to News