Everything Landlords Need To Know About Right To Rent Checks

Running a right to rent check is a legal requirement for landlords in the UK and should be carried out on every prospective tenant.

Finding Tenants

As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that the tenant renting from you has the ‘right to rent’ in the UK. Essentially, this means that they must legally be allowed to live in the country. As such, before allowing a tenancy agreement to be signed, you need to conduct a right to rent check.

It is important to note that this right to rent check must not be discriminatory. You cannot conduct a right to rent check on someone because you suspect they may not be allowed to rent in the UK. Rather, you should conduct a right to rent check on every single tenant that you rent to.

The responsibility to ensure this check is carried out falls on your shoulders (as the landlord), however, lettings agents can also carry out the checks on your behalf to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

The right to rent check has been a legal requirement since February 2016 when it was rolled out across England.

When do landlords need to run a right to rent check?

Before letting your residential property out to a tenant or lodger, you must ascertain whether they are legally allowed to rent property in England.

You must check all tenants over the age of 18 – even if:

  • They are not named on the tenancy agreement,
  • There is no tenancy agreement or the agreement is not in writing.

It is against the law to discriminate against a person because of where they are from. As such, a right to rent check must be run on all prospective tenants before they move in.

Check with the Home Office if the tenant is a Commonwealth citizen but does not have the right documents – they might still have the right to rent in the UK.

Do right to rent checks apply to all rental accommodation?

Some lettings are exempt and as such, if you are letting any of the following, you aren’t required to run a right to rent check before the tenancy starts:

  • Holiday accommodation of less than three months.
  • Housing provided by local authorities through homelessness or allocations procedures (including most housing association homes)
  • Care homes
  • Hospitals, hospices and other healthcare provision
  • Hostels and refuges
  • Local authority accommodation for homeless people
  • Home Office accommodation for migrants
  • Mobile homes
  • Accommodation provided by an employer to an employee or trainee – sometimes called ‘tied’ accommodation
  • Student accommodation where this is in a hall of residence, a home provided via a nomination by an educational institution or in a building used mainly for student accommodation and managed by an educational institution or similar or a charity.

You can read the landlords’ code of practice to find out if you need to do any other checks instead.

Who has the right to rent?

You have the right to rent if any of the following apply:

  • You’re a British or Irish citizen
  • You have indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
  • You have refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • You have settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme
  • You have permission to be in the UK, for example, on a work or student visa
  • The Home Office has granted you a time limited right to rent

How do you run a right to rent check?

There are several ways to establish a prospective tenant’s right to rent. Essentially, you want to establish that they fit at least one of the criteria listed above. To do this you can either:

  • Check your tenant’s original documents
  • This includes documents such as their visas or passport
  • View your tenant’s right to rent online if they have a ‘share code’

Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) there are temporary changes to the way you can check documents. Read guidance about the adjusted process, including asking for documents digitally, making checks on a video call, and what to do if someone cannot provide any accepted documents.

How to check original documents

  1. Check which adults will use your property as their main home (your ‘tenants’).
  2. Ask them for original documents that prove they can live in the UK. You cannot accept biometric residence cards or permits. Ask the tenant for a share code instead.
  3. Check their documents to see if they have the right to rent your property.
  4. Check that each tenant’s documents are genuine and belong to them, with the tenant present.
  5. Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check.

You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for renting your property to someone who is not allowed to stay in England.

You need to check that:

  • The documents are originals and belong to the tenant
  • Their permission to stay in the UK has not ended
  • The photos on the documents are of the tenant
  • The dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
  • The documents are not too damaged or do not look like they’ve been changed
  • If any names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree

You cannot accept biometric residence cards or permits. Ask the tenant for a share code instead.

How to check with a share code

You can view a tenant’s right to rent in England with a share code if your tenant:

  • Has a biometric residence card or permit
  • Has settled or pre-settled status
  • Applied for a visa and used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document on their phone

Ask your tenant to give you their share code.

If your tenant can prove their right to rent using an accepted, original document, you cannot insist they use the online service instead.

What to do if the tenant does not have the right documents

Should the prospective tenant not have the right documents, you must use the landlord’s checking service if any of the following apply:

  • The Home Office has their documents
  • They have an outstanding case or appeal with the Home Office
  • The Home Office told them they have ‘permission to rent’

You’ll get a response from Home Office usually within two working days. In order to use this service, you will need your tenant’s Home Office registration reference number.

If the landlord’s checking service tells you that they are not allowed to rent in England, you must decline their application.

Making copies of the documents

You will want to make and keep a copy of your tenant’s document and store it for at least a year after they have stopped being your tenant.

The easiest way to do this is to upload and store the copied documents into a cloud-based system like Landlord Studio. This will enable you to keep all your documents properly organised and easily accessible from any device at any time.

When you copy the documents:

  • Make a copy that cannot be changed, such as a photocopy or a good quality photograph
  • For passports, copy every page with the expiry date or applicant’s details (such as nationality, date of birth and photograph), including endorsements, for example a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK
  • Make a complete copy of all other documents
  • Record the date you made the copy

Note: Make sure you follow data protection law.

Do you need to conduct follow-up right to rent checks?

If there is a time limit on your tenant’s ability to rent in the UK, make sure to follow up before the expiry date.

If you do not follow up and their permission to stay expires, you could face a fine.

A follow-up check should be conducted either at the end of your tenant’s permission to stay in the UK, or 12 months after your previous check, whichever comes sooner.

You do not have to do a follow-up check if there’s no time limit on your tenant’s permission to stay in the UK.

If you conduct the follow-up check and discover they no longer have the right to rent in the UK you must report this to the Home Office. Failing to report your tenant, should you discover they can no longer legally rent property in England after doing a follow-up check, could result in a fine or prison time of up to 5 years.

Agents and subletting

You can ask any agents that manage or let your property to carry out the check for you. You should have this agreement in writing.

If a tenant sub-lets the property without you knowing, they’re responsible for carrying out checks on any sub-tenants. They will be liable for any civil penalties if they do not do the check correctly.

Final Words

Running a right to rent check is a legal requirement for landlords in the UK. This check should be carried out on every prospective tenant. Landlords must understand their legal responsibility and follow the law. If a tenant does not have the right to rent, their application should be denied.

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We hope you found this blog interesting! However, do note that the information in this article does not constitute advice. This blog is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for competent legal and/or other advice from a licensed professional.