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Immigration rules are going digital so landlords and their agents need to  familiarise themselves asap with  new Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT)!

However, the government has delayed ending existing arrangements until the end of  next September  when physical  documents, video, scanned documents, those sent by  email or mobile app could be consigned to history.

Landlords and agents might use the extra time to  develop relationships with IDVT service providers who can  carry out  digital checks particularly on behalf of British and Irish citizens who hold valid passports - or Irish passport cards.
The Right to Rent Online Checking Service for Biometric Residence Card/Permit Holders will become the new proof of a right to stay, work or study in the UK.

For tenants to qualify before 30th September, letting agents must:-

a) request a scanned copy or photo of original documents by email or mobile app;

b) arrange for tenants to hold up original documents to the camera during a video call which must then be verified against digital copies;

c) use the online right to rent service during a video call  if the tenant has a current Biometric Residence Permit or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or points-based immigration system; and

d) record the date of this process  as an ‘adjusted check;’

Landlords and letting agents can help to  ‘establish a statutory excuse' against a possible financial penalty by using the Home Office online form.

Apart from demand far exceeding supply so rents are rising at their fastest and voids between letting periods are at their lowest for many years, there’s plenty happening!

Earlier this year,  the government proposed an end to ‘no fault’ section 21 repossessions and an enforceable minimum ‘Decent Homes Standard’ for rented properties.

But how will higher standards be enforced? Could possession grounds be strengthened so evictions become mandatory  unless ‘reasonable’?  

With waiting times for evictions reaching  record highs due to a shortage of bailiffs and significant court delays even if tenants are in serious arrears, it is even more important to ensure paperwork is in order.

For instance, a deposit of no more than five weeks' rent held under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must be placed in one of three government-approved custodial or insurance-backed schemes within 30 days of receipt and proscribed information served on the tenant and any relevant person such as a Gas Safety Certificate (if relevant),  EPC, ‘How to Rent’ Guide and Electrical Installation Condition Report. Failing to do so could result in the tenant bringing a claim for compensation against the landlord of not less than the  amount of the deposit and not more than three times the amount of the deposit - otherwise heavy fines may result.

As a result, landlords could become more wary of letting older properties to riskier tenants so increasingly insist on guarantors and rent protection insurance.

Or will better insulated homes with lower running costs become more popular as energy costs continue their inexorable rise and  stricter Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) targets loom larger.

A consultation will begin soon too  on a landlord register to better tackle rogue operators which forms part of a shift towards strengthening  tenants’ rights.

Self-managing landlords who thought they had fewer compliance responsibilities than letting agents are in for a nasty shock!

Fully-qualified Jeremy Leaf & Co have let and managed thousands of  properties since the 1980s. We are well-trained, nearly all live locally and have worked with the company for at least 10 years – several for over 20. We really know this area!

Possession claims are on the rise this year due to a freeze on benefits, soaring food and energy bills as well as an end to Covid eviction bans.

But don’t just take our word for it – Jeremy Leaf & Co won the 2022 Feefo Platinum Customer Service Award after receiving at least 70 reviews with an average rating of 4.9 (out of 5) in each of the past three years. We look forward to adding you to that number!

Jeremy Leaf, a former RICS residential chairman &  independent North London Estate Agency owner     

April 2022