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A Guide to Right to Rent Checks for Landlords

Feb 09, 2024

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Right to rent checks have been mandatory for landlords and letting agents since February 2016. It's crucial for landlords to ensure that prospective tenants are legally permitted to reside in the UK and rent residential properties. Failure to conduct these checks or allowing tenancies to commence with ineligible tenants can result in significant fines.

Understanding the Right to Rent Scheme

The right to rent scheme requires landlords to verify that prospective tenants have the legal right to reside in the UK. This check is a legal requirement for all landlords in the private rented sector.

Commencement of the Right to Rent Scheme

The right to rent check was implemented in England in February 2016 under the Immigration Act 2014. Currently, it is not applicable in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This requirement only applies to tenancies that began in or after February 2016.

Responsibility for Right to Rent Checks

Landlords are responsible for conducting right to rent checks on prospective tenants in the private rented sector. Additionally, this responsibility extends to:

  • 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 by landlords in writing to oversee compliance with the right to rent scheme

Components of Right to Rent Checks

Landlords should conduct right to rent checks on all prospective tenants, regardless of nationality, to avoid any allegations of discrimination. Here are the criteria for conducting these checks:

UK and Irish Citizens

Manual inspection of original passport, driving license, or UK birth certificate

EU, EEA, Swiss Citizens

Use the Home Office online service to verify tenant's documents by requesting their date of birth and 'share code'.

Citizens from Outside the EU and EEA

Use the Home Office online service to check immigration status

Types of Tenants Subject to Checks

All tenants applying for tenancies in the private rented sector, including adults not named on the tenancy agreement, must undergo right to rent checks. However, children under 18 or non-rent-contributing guests are exempt. Certain tenants may also be exempt from these checks if residing in specific types of accommodations.

Understanding Tenant Occupancy

After completing a right to rent check, it's essential to understand the tenant's status:

Unlimited Right to Rent

British citizens, Irish citizens, or EU, EEA, Swiss nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK under the EU settlement scheme

Time-Limited Right to Rent

Individuals with limited leave to enter or remain in the UK, requiring status verification within 28 days of expiration

No Right to Rent

Individuals lacking valid leave to enter or remain in the UK, with no permission from the Home Office to rent

Methods to Verify Right to Rent

Landlords and letting agents should be familiar with methods to verify tenant evidence:

Manual Verification

For UK and Irish citizens, use original passport or birth certificate, verified with the tenant present

Home Office Right to Rent Service

For EU, EEA, Swiss nationals, and non-EU, EEA citizens, request a 'share code' from the tenant and conduct a digital check using the Home Office online service

Penalties for Illegal Tenants

Landlords can face fines up to £3000 for renting to individuals without a right to rent or who fail right to rent checks. The Home Office may issue a referral notice requesting evidence of correct checks. Landlords who demonstrate compliance with right to rent checks can mount a defence against penalties.

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