Right to rent Checks

Right to Rent Checks

Since February 2016, it has been mandatory for landlords to ensure that prospective tenants have the legal right to rent a residential property in the UK. Failing to conduct these checks or renting to tenants who fail them can result in significant fines for landlords.

Recent changes have been implemented regarding how tenants prove their immigration status. From 1 July 2021, EEA (European Economic Area) citizens without settled status can no longer use EEA passports or national identity cards as proof of their right to live in the UK. Instead, they are required to provide digital evidence through the Home Office’s online right to rent service. EEA nationals can rely on settled or pre-settled status granted under the EU settlement scheme.

Understanding the Right to Rent Scheme.

The Right to Rent scheme compels landlords to verify that prospective tenants have the legal right to reside in the UK before entering into a tenancy agreement. This check is a legal requirement for all landlords.

Effective Date and Applicability
The right to rent check came into effect in England in February 2016 under the Immigration Act 2014. However, it is not yet applicable in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The requirement applies to tenancies that began in or after February 2016.
Legal Obligation for Landlords
All tenants aged 18 or over, regardless of whether they are named on the tenancy agreement, must undergo right to rent checks. Landlords are responsible for conducting these checks, and the following parties should also carry them out
  • Occupiers allowing lodgers to reside in a property
  • Tenants sub-letting part or all of a property (with written agreement from both parties)
  • Letting agents appointed in writing by a landlord to take responsibility for complying with the right to rent scheme
Types of Right to Rent Checks
Landlords should be aware that different documents are required depending on the tenant’s nationality. It is crucial to conduct right to rent checks on all prospective tenants, irrespective of their nationality, to avoid accusations of discrimination. Here are the criteria for the right to rent checks:
  • UK and Irish citizens: Manual inspection of passport, driving license, or UK birth certificate (original copies)
  • EU, EEA, Swiss citizens: Use the Home Office online service, requesting a ‘share code’ from the tenant and entering it with their date of birth
  • Citizens from outside the EU and EEA: Use the Home Office online service to check immigration status
Tenants Subject to Checks
All tenants applying for a tenancy in the private rented sector need to undergo right to rent checks. This includes any other adults who will be living in the property, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement. Children under the age of 18, or guests who are not contributing rent, do not need to be checked. Some tenants may be exempt from the checking service, such as those in social housing, care homes, hostels, student accommodation, or mobile homes.
Understanding Tenant Status
Upon completing a right to rent check, it is essential to understand the tenant’s status:
  • Those with an unlimited right to rent: British citizens, Irish citizens, and EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK under the EU settlement scheme.
  • Those with a time-limited right to rent: Individuals with limited permission to reside in the UK. Their status should be checked within 28 days of their right to reside expiring.
  • No right to rent: A person has no right to rent if they do not have valid leave to enter or remain in the UK, and have not been granted discretionary permission to rent by the Home Office.
  • Home Office permission to rent: Prospective tenants whose immigration status disqualifies them from renting may be under the impression that they have permission to rent. In these circumstances, where there is doubt regarding a prospective tenant’s right to rent, landlords should consult the Landlords Checking Service for verification from the Home Office.
Validating Right to Rent Evidence
Landlords and letting agents should understand how to check the evidence provided by tenants
  • Manual check: For UK and Irish citizens, landlords can use original copies of passports or birth certificates. The documents should be checked in the presence of the prospective tenant.
  • Home Office right to rent service: For EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals, as well as citizens from outside the EU and EEA, landlords should request a ‘share code’ from the prospective tenant. This code is used to conduct a digital check on the Home Office website by entering it together with the person’s date of birth.
Penalties for Renting to Illegal Tenants
Landlords can face fines of up to £3,000 for renting to individuals without a right to rent or who fail the right to rent check. The Home Office may issue a referral notice and request evidence of the necessary checks. Landlords who can demonstrate that they conducted the correct right to rent checks will have a valid defense.

For comprehensive guidance on Right to Rent checks and how to avoid penalties imposed by the Home Office, including the practical implications of recent changes, please feel free to contact us.

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