Your complete guide to ‘Right to Rent’ immigration checks

Right to rent

Right to rent checks are included in Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, which says landlords in England must not let their properties to those without permission to live in the UK.

Landlords who let to tenants without the right to rent could face a fine of up to £3,000 — or even imprisonment.


A right to rent overview

This guide gives a very brief overview of the scheme, and some advice on how to conduct the checks  to ‘maintain an excuse’ against a penalty.

It also advises on how to conduct the checks fairly, without risking accusation of discrimination.

This guide covers:

This blog serves as a guide to right to rent checks. When in doubt, you are strongly advised to speak with a legal expert. For more information, visit the government’s website.

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Where does the right to rent scheme cover?

right to rent

You must check your tenants have permission to rent your property in England if their tenancy starts on or after 1st February 2016.

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What rentals fall under the right to rent scheme?

The scheme applies to all residential tenancies starting on or after the date the scheme was implemented in a particular area.

This applies to all tenants who use the property as their only or main home (see 3.3). This include sub-tenants and lodgers.

A residential tenancy includes any lease, licence, sub-lease or sub-tenancy that:

  1. Grants a right of occupation at a residential property
  2. Demands rental payments
  3. Is not an excluded agreement, such as social housing (for more on excluded agreements, see section 3.7).

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Who has a right to rent in the UK?

right to rent

There are three broad categories where potential tenants’ right to rent fall:

  1. Unlimited right to rent
  2. Time-limited right to rent
  3. No right to rent.

 

1. Unlimited right to rent

There are two main groups who have an unlimited right to rent in the UK:

  1. British citizens, EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss nationals.
  2. People who have the right of abode in the UK, people who have been granted indefinite leave to remain, or those who have no time limit on their stay in the UK.

You will not be liable for a civil penalty if you let to those with an unlimited right to rent in the UK.

 

2. Time-limited right

Those who aren’t British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals will have a time-limited right to rent if:

  1. They are allowed to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period of time; or
  2. They’re entitled to enter or remain in the UK because of an enforceable right under the European Union law or any provision made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.

You will not be liable for a civil penalty if you let to those with a time-limited right to rent in the UK. However, you must conduct follow-up checks in order to avoid a penalty at a future date.

 

3. No right to rent

Those who need permission to live in the UK and do not have it do not have the right to rent in the UK.

You normally face a fine if you let to those without permission to live in the UK if they use the property as their only or main home.

Looking for more information about your obligations as a landlord? Visit our blog: ‘My landlord obligations: what are they?

Learn more >

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How do I avoid a right to rent civil penalty?

right to rent

Maintaining a ‘statutory excuse’

To avoid a fine, you must establish  a ‘statutory excuse’. This involves three steps:

  1. You must conduct initial checks before letting an adult rent your property
  2. If initial right to rent checks show the tenant has a time-limited right to rent, you must conduct follow-up checks at the appropriate date
  3. If your follow-up checks show the tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK, you must inform the Home Office.

The majority of tenants will be either British, EEA or Swiss nationals. As such, most landlords will not need to do any more than an initial right to rent check in order to maintain an ‘excuse’ against a penalty.

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How do I check a tenant’s right to rent?

right to rent

Initial right to rent checks

There are four basic steps to conducting an initial check:

  1. Find out which adults will use the property as their only or main home
  2. See original versions of one or more acceptable documents for all of the above (see below for the lists of acceptable documents)
  3. Check the documents in the presence of the holder of the documents
  4. Make copies of the documents and keep hold of them. Record the date the check was made.

You must not make initial checks more than 28 days before a tenancy starts.

For more on initial checks, see the government’s code of practice (5.1).

 

Follow-up right to rent checks

If your tenant has a time-limited right to remain in the UK, you only have a time-limited excuse against a penalty. This lasts for:

  1. Twelve months; or
  2. Until the tenant’s permission to remain in the UK expires; or
  3. Their documents showing their right to be in the UK expire (whichever is later).

To maintain your time-limited statutory excuse, you must conduct follow-up checks within 28 days from when their time-limited right to rent expires.

To conduct a follow-up check, the tenant must show proof of their continued right to rent. Then one of three things may happen:

  1. The tenant produces documents showing they now have an unlimited right to rent in the UK. In this case, no further follow-up checks are necessary.
  2. They produce documents showing their time-limited right to rent has been extended or renewed. In this case, further follow-up checks are necessary, as before.
  3. They may fail to produce any documents showing proof of their continued right to rent. In this case, you must make a report to the Home Office (see below).

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Making a report to the Home Office

Right to rent

If your tenant no longer has a right to rent, you must inform the Home Office as soon as is ‘reasonably practicable’. The report must be made in writing (by post or email) and contain all of the following:

  1. The full name of the tenant who you believe doesn’t have permission
  2. The tenant’s address
  3. Your own name and contact address
  4. Where relevant, the name and contact address of the agent
  5. The date the tenant first took up occupation
  6. Copies of the documents you kept after the initial right to rent check for the tenant in question.

Making a report does not mean you must start the eviction process.

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What are ‘acceptable documents’ under Right to Rent?

For a complete list of all documents that can be used to prove a tenant’s right to rent, visit our blog: ‘What are acceptable documents for ‘Right to Rent’ checks?

Read more >

In some cases, a person may be unable to provide an acceptable document, but may have a temporary right to rent. This could be if the person:

  1. Has an ongoing application with the Home Office; or
  2. Their documents are with the Home Office; or
  3. They claim to have the Home Office’s permission to rent.

In these cases, you can use the Landlords’ Checking Service for verification. An email from them providing a “yes” response to a right-to-rent request will be enough evidence.

 

The Landlords’ Checking Service

If a tenant can’t provide the landlord with any of the accepted documents, but claims to have an ongoing immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, you can request a right to rent verification from the Home Office’s Landlords’ Checking Service.

To do this, you need the tenant’s Home Office reference number. This is an application or appeal number, or an application registration card (ARC) number.

You will receive a simple “Yes” or “No” response from the Landlords’ Checking Service within two working days.

The “Yes” response means the individual does have a right to rent, and will give you a statutory excuse for at least 12 months from the date of the check.

The “No” response means the individual does not have the right to rent. You should not let your property to them unless they can provide alternative proof that they have permission to live in the UK.

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How can I avoid accusations of discrimination?

right to rent

The best way is to conduct checks on all adult occupants, and keep copies of any documents. Don’t make any assumptions about their right to rent.

A few tips to follow are:

  • Do not discriminate, directly or indirectly, because of race. Race and racial grounds include: colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins
  • Do not make or act on assumptions about a person’s immigration status based on their colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, accent, their ability to speak English, or the how long they’ve been in the UK
  • Do not treat prospective tenants less fairly because they have a time-limited right to remain in the UK.

For more detailed advice, we highly advise you read in full the Home Office’s Code of Practice for Landlords.

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This blog serves as a guide to right to rent checks. When in doubt, you are strongly advised to speak with a legal expert. For more information, visit the government’s website.

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