It’s a criminal offence for a landlord, or their agent, to not check a tenants or permitted occupiers right to rent in the UK. This offence carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years! Therefore this blog post is designed to assist with the carrying out of Right to Rent checks for landlords and tenants.
In 2016 the Queen approved The Immigration Act. The purpose of this act is to tackle illegal immigration, by making it harder to live and work illegally in the UK. You can read the full bill here.
These are acceptable documents which show an unlimited right to rent:
If all the occupants are disqualified from renting, the residential tenancy agreement may be terminated by serving a section 8 notice, giving at least 28 days written notice. This notice will be enforceable as if it were an order from the high court, with no need to obtain a possession order.
Landlords who let private property in England, or take in lodgers, could be liable for a civil penalty if they enter into a tenancy agreement involving an illegal migrant. If a landlord makes the checks and retains copies as required they will have a statutory excuse against such a penalty.
Landlords and agents should apply the right to rent checks in a fair, justifiable and consistent manner, regardless as to whether they believe the prospective tenant to be British, settled or a person with limited permission to be in the UK. More information on avoiding discrimination is available here.
Below are some common queries we get asked about the right to rent in the UK.
FAQs for Landlords
My prospective tenant is a student who is coming to the UK and wishes to arrange his tenancy from overseas. What do I do?
You can agree a tenancy in principle and then check the tenant’s documents in person when they arrive in the UK. You may wish to see the tenant via live video link before agreeing the tenancy in principle; however this does not negate the need for you to check the tenant’s documents in person once they arrive in the UK. Recent arrivals to the UK should have evidence of a right to rent through the documents they used to enter the country.
My prospective tenant has shown me a document in a foreign language, how do I know if this represents valid proof of EEA citizenship?
Most documents are in English as well but if in doubt, you can ask the tenant to provide other documents from the list in English. If you are not satisfied that they have the right to rent, you should not rent to them.
My tenant has guests staying with. Do I need to carry out Right to Rent checks on them?
House guests, such as friends or family members, will not ordinarily be treated as an ‘occupier’ under the Scheme because a guest will generally not be living in the accommodation as they’re only or main home. A landlord should make reasonable enquiries at the time the residential tenancy is entered into (including when it is renewed or varied) and make an assessment based on those enquiries as to whether someone will be living on the premises as their only or main home.
Where a person is living in accommodation as their only or main home and is paying rent to another occupier, they may be regarded as having entered into their own residential tenancy agreement with that occupier (as a sub-tenant or licensee) and it will fall to that occupier to conduct the right to rent checks.
Do I have to employ somebody else to carry out document checks if I am not an expert?
No. You only have to be satisfied that the documents which you are checking seem genuine. You can make an arrangement with an agent who can carry out checks on your behalf but the Home Office will not penalise anybody who has been caught out by a good forgery.
What if I do not receive a response from the Landlords Checking Service within the promised 48 hour timeframe?
Responses from the Landlord Checking Service are automated in such a way so that an email letter is generated allowing you to rent to that person if a check can not be completed on them in 48 hours.
My prospective tenant has provided me with a Certificate of Application, stating that they have an outstanding application with the Home Office. Can I accept this as part of a Right to Rent check?
No. When presented with such a certificate you must contact the Landlords Checking Service for verification that the prospective tenant has an outstanding application and can rent. You will receive a clear response within two working days.
FAQs for Tenants
I have had my passport and/or other identity documents stolen. How can I satisfy a Right to Rent check?
If your passport or biometric immigration document has been stolen, a letter from a UK police force confirming that you are a victim of crime and have reported your passport as stolen, stating the crime reference number, which has been issued in the last 3 months, can be used as part of the evidence of your right to rent. This must be accompanied by another document. A full list of documents which can be used in combination in order to satisfy a Right to Rent check are detailed at the front of this document.
I have never had a passport or driving licence. How can I satisfy a Right to Rent check?
If you do not have a passport or driving licence, you can use a number of other documents to prove your right to rent. A full list of documents which can be used in order to satisfy a Right to Rent check are detailed at the beginning of this document.
I have a passport, but it has expired. How can I satisfy a Right to Rent check?
If you have an unlimited right to rent in the UK (i.e. you are a British citizen or an EEA national, or you are allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely), you can use an expired passport to evidence your right to rent. If you are in the UK on a temporary basis you can use an expired passport to satisfy a Right to Rent check providing that the endorsement within your passport clearly shows that your leave in the UK expires on a future date.
The Home Office is holding my passport. How can I satisfy a Right to Rent check?
If the Home Office is holding your passport due to an ongoing immigration application or appeal, your prospective landlord can request verification of your right to rent from the Home Office’s Landlords Checking Service using an online form. In order to do this, you will need to provide them with a Home Office reference number; this can be an application or appeal number, application registration card (ARC) number, or case ID number etc. The Landlords Checking Service will always respond to the landlord by email within 2 working days, with a clear “yes” or “no” response.
A “yes” response means that you do have the right to rent in the UK. The details of your immigration status and any applications you have made will not be disclosed.
My employer is holding my passport. How can I satisfy a Right to Rent check?
Your employer is not legally allowed to keep your passport!
If they are not allowing you to hold it, you should contact the police.
You can satisfy a Right to Rent check without a passport by using a number of other documents. A full list of documents which can be used in order to satisfy a Right to Rent check are detailed at the beginning of this post.
I am a student and will be living in Halls of Residence. Will I be subject to Right to Rent checks?
No. Halls of Residence are exempt from Right to Rent checks. This is the case for both Halls of Residence owned by universities and colleges and private organisations.
For more information on the ever changing world of lettings, please contact me on the details below.
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