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Tenant Right to Rental Rules

What is right to rent? The Immigration Act 2014 introduced the tenant right to rental rules in England. Landlords, and anyone subletting, must now perform basic document checks on new adult tenants.

TENANT RIGHT TO RENT SCHEME UK: Landlords need to check the legitimacy of their tenant or lodger.

You must determine their eligibility for renting a property or a room at your residential property in England.

That means verifying whether there are any people aged 18 and over living in your rental property.

A Home Office press release announced a new ruling enforcement from February 1st 2016. The new regulations apply to all residing adults living in rental properties.

People You Must Check

All landlords must check whether your tenant or lodger has the legal right to rent your residential property in England.

The new tenant right to rent rules mean your checks must happen before the start of any new tenancy. You must verify the legitimacy of all tenants who are 18 years and over, even if:

  • The person is not named on the landlord and tenant tenancy agreement.
  • You do not have a written tenancy agreement with the person or persons.
  • The tenancy agreement is not in writing such as a verbal agreement.

What happens if the tenant can stay in the United Kingdom for a limited time? In that case you need to perform the right to rental check in the period of 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

But, you do not need to check tenants living in some types of accommodation. Typical examples can include most care homes and social housing accommodation. Check the code of practice on excluded agreements for further information.

Note: Landlords should check all new tenants no matter what their nationality. It is against the law to check only the people you think do not have British citizenship.

Checking Your Tenant’s Right to Rental

  1. Determine which adult tenants will live at your rented property as their only or main home.
  2. Inspect the original documents that allow the occupier to live in the United Kingdom. (e.g. biometric residence permit or a birth certificate with a Council Tax bill)
  3. Check those documents are genuine and give them the legal right to rent your property.
  4. Ensure that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant (while the lessee is present).
  5. Create and keep copies of all the documents and record the date when you made the right to rent check.

Note: More guidance for landlords explains how to conduct right to rent checks for undocumented commonwealth citizens. There are severe penalties for illegal renting to a person who is not allowed to rent property in England.

Private Renting Eviction ProcessCheck if the Property is the Tenant’s Main Home

A rented property would usually get accepted as a tenant’s only home, or main home, if:

  • They live there for the majority of the time.
  • They keep most of their belongings in that property.
  • Their partner or children also live with them.
  • They got registered to vote at that property.
  • They got registered with a doctor using that home address.

Checking Original Documents of a Tenant

While your tenant is present you need to check:

  • The documentation is original and belongs to the resident.
  • Dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the United Kingdom have not expired.
  • Document photographs are in fact taken of the tenant.
  • The dates of birth are all the same in all documents (reasonable and believable).
  • Documents are not damaged and do not look like they got changed.
  • There is supporting documents to show why any names are different on some documents (e.g. marriage certificate or divorce decree).

You must see their original documents before they start living at the property. This is a priority if your tenant is arranging their rental tenancy from overseas.

What if the Tenant Does Not Have the Correct Documents?

In this case you must use the government landlord checking service. That enables you to check whether the tenant can rent without the right documents if:

  1. The Home Office has their documents.
  2. They have an outstanding case or appeal with the Home Office.
  3. The Home Office informed them they have ‘permission to rent’.

The Home Office will give you an answer within two working days. Remember you need the Home Office reference number of the tenant to use the landlord checking service.

Note: Use caution when renting a property to someone in England. Do not rent out if they cannot give you the right documents and the landlord checking service informs you they cannot rent.

Get Help with a Tenant Right to Rental Check

You can call the landlord’s helpline to get help with a tenant right to rent immigration investigation.

Landlord’s Helpline UK
Telephone: 0300 069 9799
Monday to Thursday: 9am to 4:45pm
Friday: 9am to 4:30pm

Note: You must follow the landlord code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation.

Procedures for Copying Tenant Documents

When you make a copy of the tenant documents you should:

  1. Create a copy which cannot get changed (e.g. a photocopy or a high quality photograph).
  2. When you make copies of passports you should:
    1. Copy every page including the expiry date and applicant details (date of birth, nationality, and photograph)
    2. Copy any endorsements (e.g. Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK or work visa)
  3. Copy both sides of any biometric residence permits.
  4. Keep copies of all other documents relating to the rental.
  5. Record the actual date when you made the copies.

You must keep these copies of tenant documents all the time they remain your tenant. You should also hold on to them for at least one year after they leave. Be sure you are following all UK data protection laws.

What if the Tenant Does Not Have Documents?

In this case you must use the government landlord checking service. That enables you to determine whether the tenant has the legal right to rent property in the UK.

Landlord Right to Rent Checklist for Follow Up

There are situations where landlords must perform a follow-up check. The right to rent checklist ensures the tenant can still rent property in the UK. This happens most when there is a time limit on their permission to stay in the country.

Landlords or agents should do the follow-up check before the date that is the furthest away out of:

  1. The end of permission for your tenant to stay in the United Kingdom.
  2. Twelve (12) months after your previous tenant right to rental check.

Note: There is no need for a follow-up check if your tenant’s permission to stay has no time limit. But you can get fined if you fail to do a follow-up check and your tenant’s legal permission to stay expires.

What if a Tenant Fails a Follow-up Check?

What happens if you determine your tenant no longer has the legal right to rent property in England? Landlords and agents must inform the Home Office after finding this out on a follow-up check.

Note: If you do not report a tenant failure after a follow-up check you can get fined or up to 5 years in prison.

Landlord Agents and Tenancy Subletting

Some landlords use an agent to manage or let their property. In this case you can ask the agent to carry out the tenant right to rental check for you. But, as the landlord of the property, you should have this type of agreement in writing.

What happens if your tenant sub-lets the property without you knowing? In this case the responsibilities for checking rest with your legal tenant. They are responsible for carrying out the immigration checks on any sub-tenants.

Note: People who sub-let are liable for civil penalties if they fail to do the proper right to rent check.

Check Your Tenant’s Right to Rent and Immigration Documents for United Kingdom