Right to Rent checks started in the Midlands in 2014 and were rolled out across England in 2016. Agents are required see certain paperwork and either meet the person face to face or see them over live video link.
This is not usually a problem, even if just another job that landlords and agents have to do. The rules are very similar to the checks that employers are required to make before employing a member of staff.
In order to make employing people more efficient, the Home Office have been trialling and testing an online system for some applicants. The applicant registers online, they then provide an email address for the employer to which the Home Office send an email. This email contains a link for the employer to click on. When the employer clicks on the link they see a photo of the person (so they can see if it is the one they are employing) and the information provided confirms limitations on employment so the employer can see if the proposed employment breaches any restrictions.
The system logs the check and the employer is not required to keep copies of documents (great for GDPR). Currently the law does not allow for this form of checking, so it has been tested alongside employers needing to do the normal checks. The law is due to change and from the end of January (software gremlins accepted!) the online system should work. You can find out further information here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-right-to-work-checks
Whilst the system might be of interest to agents as employers, the Home Office is now looking for agents to trial a lettings system as they feel it could be extended to the Right to Rent checks. Do let us know if you would be interested in taking part in the trial, which would involve doing the online checks alongside the paper ones during the trial. If the trial is successful the law would need to be amended to allow for the online checking to count as a statutory defence.
Currently there is no date for the national roll out of the online system for lettings, but as the system is based on the one already developed for employers it should not take long to test it for letting and discussion with the Home Office indicated they hoped it would be in place by the end of the summer (unless “anything” gets in the way and delays it!!!).