The UK government has extended temporary rules allowing Letting Agents to conduct Right to Rent checks via video rather than in person, from May 17 to June 20, 2021. This allows agencies to continue conducting the checks in a safe and convenient manner and keep the rental market moving ahead of the planned next lockdown easing on June 21st.
Meanwhile, although the government is working to support the lettings industry, a report shows that the supply of rental homes across the UK has fallen further in April 2021, helping to push rents higher. With demand outstripping supply, the average UK rent rose by a six year higher in April.
Government Updates Right to Rent Check Details
As the country slowly moves out of strict lockdown, the UK Home Office has issued some updated advice on the use of video Right-to-Rent checks used by letting agents for some rental agreements. Earlier in the pandemic, it was expected that while video calls would be permitted to carry out the check, they should then be verified in person once a change of rules allowed it. This is now no longer the case and checks done by video will remain permissible, without a follow up in person interview.
From June 21, 2021, letting agents and landlords must revert to in person checks on a potential tenant’s immigration status in relation to their right to rent a home in the UK. This means they must also view documents in person, rather than rely on scanned copies, or check the applicants right to rent online with the share code they provide.
This extension of the video right to rent checks places the lettings industry in line with the broader England plan to emerge from lockdown over a series of different steps and will help ensure that agents are following both sets of rules.
However, while right to rent checks are still necessary, there may be less demand for them as a recent report shows a steep decline in the number of homes available for rent across the UK.
Rental Homes Supply Contracts
While letting agencies and landlords continue to work hard to provide rental accommodation for those searching for it, a recent report from property management firm Hamptons, shows that in April 2021, the number of available rental homes sank compared with a year earlier.
The property expert’s April letting report shows that average rents across the UK rose by 5.9% in April. That’s the highest increase sine 2015 and compares with a 2.2% decline in April 2020. In addition, excluding London rents, Hamptons data shows rents rose by an average of 10.4% over the same period.
The reason behind the increase in average rents is a decline in the availability of rental homes across the country, with some 45% fewer homes available to rent in April 2021 compared with April 2019. South West England experienced the largest shortage with 62% fewer rental homes available while London recorded the smallest decline of 20%.
“The tax changes introduced from 2016 onwards have undoubtedly taken the heat out of the buy-to-let market,” said Aneisha Beveridge, Head of Research at Hamptons. “Landlord purchases have dropped and consequently the rental sector is 7% smaller than it was at its peak in 2017.”
With the current stamp duty holiday fuelling activity in the home-buyers market, it’s possible that tenants will increasingly rely on institutionalised Build-to-Rent homes, rather than the traditional Buy-to-Let landlord that has been a major supplier of rental homes in recent years. How that will affect rental prices in the future is as yet unknow, but one positive development is that standards could be more easily managed, giving tenants more choice of suitable rental homes around the country.