Right to Rent Checks Explained
As of 1 February 2016, the part of the Immigration Act 2014 that covers Right to Rent came into force throughout the whole of England after an initial trial in areas of the West Midlands.
In order to be able to rent a property in England, you must have a right to be in the UK. If you have no such right, then you are not permitted to legally rent a home.
Any landlord who lets private rented accommodation must conduct the checks, as must any tenant or occupier who is sub-letting a property, or a landlord or occupier allowing a lodger to live in the property. Landlords will not need to make checks on existing tenants who occupied their property prior to 1 February 2016.
The process starts with an initial check of the potential tenant’s documents. If this shows that the person has a right to be in the UK indefinitely and the documents are in order, then the landlord need not make any further checks. If however the check shows that the person may only stay in the UK for a limited period of time then a follow-up check will need to be made during the 28 days before the date the right expires.
When a tenant’s right to be in the UK is due to expire during a tenancy the landlord will need to conduct a follow-up check either when the right expires, or after 12 months, whichever is later. If this check shows that the right has permanently expired then the landlord will need to make an official report to the Home Office.
If a landlord has any suspicions that the tenants’ documents are false or have been tampered with then the landlord should not proceed with the rental. If no documents can be provided but the tenant states that they have an outstanding immigration application, or an appeal with the Home Office, then the landlord should request the person’s Home Office reference number and refer the check to the Landlords Checking Service.
The landlord should keep a copy of the documents checked, and make a note of the date of the initial and any follow-up checks. If documents have indicated that a right to be in the UK is due to expire during a tenancy, then the landlord should mark this date so that the appropriate follow-up check can be made in time.
All adult tenants will need to be checked, regardless of their perceived nationality. Appearances and accents do not necessarily indicate a particular nationality, and furthermore, it is important that landlords are not seen to be discriminating by checking some tenants but not others.
Failure to conduct a Right to Rent check could lead to a civil penalty for a landlord of up to £3,000 if an illegal migrant is found to be living in a property owned or sub-let.
The government has issued a useful checking tool to guide you through the process. The following video should also prove helpful:
EU citizens will continue to pass Right to Rent checks
The lists of acceptable identification outlined in the Right to Rent Code of Practice and the need for letting agents to deliver Right to Rent checks in England continue unchanged until 30 June 2021.
EEA and Swiss nationals can continue to prove their Right to Rent by showing acceptable documents such as a passport or national identity card (as outlined in section 5.6 of the Code of Practice on Right to Rent) between 1 January and 30 June 2021.