As a private landlord (or agent), you’re legally obliged to check the immigration status of all tenants, lodgers and any other adults who may be living at your property. You’ll need to do this before the start of the tenancy, and it’s called a ‘right-to-rent’ check.
In other words, occupation of any rental home depends on all adults there being able to show they have valid right-to-rent status before the tenancy begins.
Essentially, it’s about providing documents to demonstrate the right to live temporarily or permanently in the United Kingdom. The aim is to stop illegal immigrants from accessing rented accommodation, and the checks were introduced under the Immigration Act 2014. Currently, this is something which applies to England only.
Who has the right to rent?
All British and Irish citizens, those with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status, or on a student or work visa, are entitled to rent a home in the UK. Those with refugee status or humanitarian protection or status under the EU settlement scheme can also become tenants here.
For some, the Home Office will have allowed a time-limited right to rent. In these cases, landlords need to carry out a follow-up check after a year or when the leave to remain is up; whichever is the later date. (In other words, if the visa expired after six months, the check wouldn’t be required until 12 months had passed.) Additionally, in these cases, the check needs doing within 28 days of the tenancy beginning, plus the visa must be valid for the proposed tenancy commencement date.
People fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine have a right to rent for as long as they’re permitted by the Home Office to remain in this country.
Finally, asylum seekers, who don’t generally have the right to rent, may get somewhere to live via the asylum support system if they have nowhere else to stay.
Carrying out right-to-rent checks properly
The law states that you must adhere to equality laws when doing these checks, or assume someone does (or doesn’t) have entitlement to rent a UK property. And landlords can’t turn down (or even discourage) tenancy applications on the grounds of:
- Race, colour or ethnicity
- Birthplace or nationality
- The length of time someone has been here
- Level of English or accent
What is a right-to-rent check?
It takes place by the prospective renter showing their ID documents to a letting agent or landlord, who will take a copy of the documents and record the check as having been done. Video calls were allowed during lockdown, but that option ended at the end of October.
For British citizens, a valid passport alone, or a UK driving licence and an original UK birth certificate are acceptable documents. For those of any other nationality, options include:
- Valid European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national ID card
- Combination of passport and valid visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) – the latter is proof of the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the UK
These include checking all adults who live or will be living in the property as their sole or main residence. You’ll also need to do follow-up checks as necessary, for example when someone’s visa expires. Unfortunately, if subsequent checks show that a renter no longer has a valid right-to-rent status, you’ll need to report them to the Home Office.
Use gov.uk’s Right to Rent Online Checking service to see current and potential tenants’ immigration status, without the need to check physical documents.
Since April 6 this year, landlords have had to use this service for biometric residence card or permit or eVisa holders, since manual checks for people with this documentation is no longer accepted.
What’s more, since the same date, it’s been permissible to use certified Identification Documentation Validation (IDVT) service providers to conduct digital checks for those with a valid British or Irish passport (or Irish passport card).
You may need to get your tenants’ date of birth and a ‘share code’ to get the right information online. The latter is available via gov.uk.
If someone’s documents are with the Home Office, you can either request a right-to-tent check via the same site, or call the helpline for right to rent on 0300 069 9799.
What if someone fails a check?
If this happens, you’re not legally able to give the person or people in question a tenancy. However, you only have to take steps to end a tenancy when the Home Office asks you to do so.
Should some people in the property have the right to rent while others don’t, you can only end a tenancy by giving the appropriate notice, or by going to court, typically through the section 21 eviction procedure.
Alternatively, you may negotiate to allow others to remain if the person with no right to rent leaves. You can only evict with no court order if no one at the property can legally rent in the UK.
Right-to-rent checks have become part of life for UK landlords, and doing them doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming. But obviously you need to do these assessments fairly, diligently and in keeping with the law.
Use us a managing agent and we’ll take care of this side of things for you. Get in touch today https://www.oakfield-property.co.uk/branches/