This article is written in line with the new guidance published by the Home Office for landlords to guide them through the right to rent checking process. The full publication is available here.
First things first, what does right to rent mean?
It is not a difficult phrase to read; however, it can be very confusing to fully understand. ‘Right to rent’ has nothing to do with landlords’ right to rent out their properties. Instead, it is all about tenants needing to have the right to rent accommodation in the UK.
Who has the right to rent?
People have the right to rent if any of the following apply:
- they are a British or EEA citizen
- they have indefinite leave to remain or settled status
- they have refugee status or humanitarian protection
- they have permission to be in the UK and have a valid visa
- the Home Office has granted them a time limited right to rent
How can landlords conduct a right to rent check?
Landlords should conduct a right to rent check before they enter into a tenancy agreement with a person. If a person’s right to rent is time-limited, the landlord should conduct a follow-up check shortly before their leave expires.
Document checks are the usual way landlords can tell if someone has the right to rent in the UK. If a prospective tenant can produce either one document from group 1 or two documents from group 2 then they should meet the requirements.
It is important that the landlords are vigilant in their checks, and make sure that the documents are consistent, genuine and have not been tampered with.
List Group 1 – (One document needed).
- A passport (current or expired) showing that the holder is a British citizen, or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the ‘right of abode’ in the UK.
- A passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
- A registration certificate (current or expired) issued by the Home Office to a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A document certifying permanent residence (current or expired) issued by the Home Office to a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A permanent residence card (current or expired) issued by the Home Office to the family member of a national of an EEA state or Switzerland.
- A document issued by the Home Office to a family member of a national of an EEA state or Switzerland (current or expired) and which indicates that the holder is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A biometric immigration document (current or expired) issued by the Home Office to the holder which indicates that the person named in it is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A passport or other travel document (current or expired) endorsed to show that the holder is ‘exempt from immigration control’, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has ‘no time limit’ on their stay in the UK.
- An immigration status document (current or expired) containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the person named in it is allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
- A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.
List Group 2 – (Two documents needed).
This list includes many variations of certain government issued letters, which can be found on page 40 of this document.
Where a person is unable to present a landlord with any of the above acceptable evidence, the landlord can make a request to the Landlord Checking Service to establish whether their prospective tenant has a right to rent.
Recording and retaining the check
It is important that landlords make a clear copy of each document in a format which cannot be altered later and retain the copy securely: electronically or in hardcopy. They must also make a record of the date on which the check was made and retain the copies securely for at least one year after the tenancy agreement comes to an end.
Landlords must copy and retain copies of:
Passports – any page with:
- the document expiry date
- the holder’s nationality
- date of birth
- UK immigration leave expiry date
- biometric details
- any page containing information indicating the holder has an entitlement to enter or remain in the UK (visa or entry stamp)
All other documents – the documents in full and copy both sides of:
- Biometric Residence Permit
- Application Registration Card
- Biometric Residence Card
New service coming soon: Online right to rent checks
On 25 November 2020, the Home Office is introducing a new online checking service. From that date, you will be able to rely on the online service ‘Check a tenant’s right to rent’ page on GOV.UK to obtain a statutory excuse against a penalty when conducting a right to rent check. This page is not yet up and running but will be a very handy tool come the 25th of November.
Landlords will be able to undertake a right to rent check in real time, via video links, for:
- non-EEA nationals with a current biometric resident permit or card
- EEA nationals and their family members with status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme
- those with status under the points-based immigration system
Using the video link provided by the service, landlords will be able to check that the photograph from their profile page is of them (i.e. the information provided by the check relates to the person and they are not an imposter).
The online service will confirm that no further check is required for someone who has a continuous right to rent. For someone with a time-limited right to rent the service will advise when a further check is required.
Right to rent checks for EEA and Swiss nationals
EEA and Swiss Citizens can continue to use their passport and national identity cards to evidence their right to rent until 30 June 2021, or if they have status under the EU Settlement Scheme or status under the points-based immigration system they can choose to evidence their right to rent using the Home Office online service.
Landlords cannot insist that they use the online service or discriminate against those who wish to use their passport or national identity card.
There is no requirement for a retrospective check to be undertaken on EEA or Swiss Citizens who entered in to a tenancy agreement on or before 30 June 2021.
According to the Home Office, new guidance on how to conduct right to rent checks on EEA and Swiss nationals after 30 June 2021 will be provided in advance of this date.
Consequences for failing to carry out the check?
Any landlord who does not carry out the check will face the following serious consequences:
A landlord could be sent to prison for 5 years or get an unlimited fine for renting property in England to someone who they knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to rent in the UK.
This includes if they had any reason to believe that:
- they did not have leave (permission) to enter or stay in the UK
- their leave had expired
- their papers were incorrect or false
You can also be fined if both of the following apply:
- you rent your property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK
- you cannot show evidence that you checked their right to rent
This is why recording the checks are of vital importance!
The information we have received from clients in the past has shown that the Home Office’s online check is pretty unreliable. It is either slow or provide inaccurate information. It is particularly so if the tenant has submitted his/her application, but the Home Office has delayed it and is yet to make a decision.
Under Section 3C of the Immigration Act, provided that the tenant has submitted his/her application before his/her previous visa expires, his/her lawful status continues. Unfortunately, in many cases, the Home Office’s online check will show that the tenant’s visa has expired, which will mislead the landlord to believe that the tenant should be evicted.
We simply hope that the Home Office’s new online checking system will perform better and faster, as any minor error or delay might mean that some innocent person or family will become homeless.
Have questions? We are here for you!
Or, why not download our free app today? You can launch a new enquiry, scan over documents and much more.
If you have an iPhone, follow this link to download.
If you use an Android phone, follow this link to download.
Find the link here if you need some further instructions on how to use our new app!