Running a right to rent check is a legal requirement for landlords in the UK and should be carried out on every prospective tenant.
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.
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:
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.
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:
You can read the landlords’ code of practice to find out if you need to do any other checks instead.
You have the right to rent if any of the following apply:
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:
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.
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:
You cannot accept biometric residence cards or permits. Ask the tenant for a share code instead.
You can view a tenant’s right to rent in England with a share code if your tenant:
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.
Should the prospective tenant not have the right documents, you must use the landlord’s checking service if any of the following apply:
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.
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:
Note: Make sure you follow data protection law.
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.
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.
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.
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.