As a landlord, you can’t legally allow someone to live in a rental property as their sole or main residence under a tenancy agreement unless they’re a UK citizen, from Switzerland or the European Economic Area (EEA), or have what’s called a Right to Rent in this country. The legislation for this is the 2014 Immigration Act, Section 22.

What’s more, since February 2016, all landlords renting out private accommodation across England have had to conduct right-to-rent checks on new tenancy agreements to confirm that renters are legally entitled to rent in the UK. Pre-existing tenancy agreements are not affected; equally, discussions are underway about extending the checks to other nations of the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, while you do need to check all adult occupiers (and not just the tenancy holder) who use a flat or house as their sole or principal residence, children younger than 18 are not covered by the rules.

In the spring of 2018, in a move covering the ‘Windrush’ generation, the government said that if a potential tenant had been permanently based in the UK since pre-1973 without long periods of absence in the last three decades, they have an automatic right to rent property.

The same may apply to someone who arrived in the UK in January 1973 or afterwards, but that right isn’t automatic.

Who is covered by these rules?

These checks apply to you if you are a private landlord but also if you are:

  • A landlord letting out a room to a lodger
  • Sub-letting all or part of your accommodation for payment unless you have a written arrangement with the landlord that they are responsible for making right-to-rent checks
  • An agent a landlord has appointed to make these assessments – again, there should be written agreement

Right-to-rent checks: the process

Stage 1

Determine who will be living in the property. Obtain, check and copy original documents showing that all adult occupiers have the right to rent in the UK.

Documents may include:

  • A UK passport
  • Permanent residence card
  • Travel document demonstrating indefinite leave to remain

If potential tenants are overseas, consider a video call with ID checks confirming everything on arrival.

Even if you use a tenant referencing agency, you will still have to see and make copies of original documents yourself.

Do checks with the relevant person present, to confirm, for example, that photos are a genuine likeness.

Stage 2

If a potential tenant has a time-limited stay in Britain, you’ll need to do a follow-up check, so make a note of when you have to do this. It must be done shortly before the person’s right to be here expires, or a year after the original check, whichever is later.

Stage 3

If you follow-up assessment determines that a renter is no longer eligible to remain in the UK, you must report full details to the Home Office.

What is the punishment for not doing these checks?

If you let a place to someone who isn’t entitled to be here, and you’re unable to show you conducted right-to-rent checks, you could receive a maximum fine of £3,000 per occupant.

Similar penalties apply if you didn’t do follow-up checks, or did but didn’t report to the Home Office that someone’s time to be here legally had run out.

Finally, if someone can’t provide documents because the Home Office is dealing with an ongoing appeal, you can ask for a check to be done via its Landlord Checking Service, for which you’ll need a Home office reference number.

Changes this autumn

From November 2, entrants into the UK will have a page online incorporating their photo plus information on working and renting rights. Landlords and agents then just need to verify that the online photo does indeed show the right person. They must also retain a copy of that web page for a year following the end of the tenancy agreement. That should speed up the checking process.

Secondly, B5JSSK nationals are those from the following nations:

  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • USA
  • South Korea

Renters from these countries with a passport and a document like a boarding pass showing entry into the UK within the last six months will have a right to rent, and can be approved via the Landlord Checking Service.

How we can help

At Oakfield Estate Agents, our lettings teams carry out these checks across our areas of Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings as part of our service to landlords, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Chief executive Neil Newstead said: “We understand the concerns in the industry over landlords effectively providing an unpaid border control service. But while of course we welcome tenants whatever their country of origin, we have to keep within what the law says. Let us sort out these checks – so you don’t have to.

“While right-to-rent checks have operated with a rather lighter touch during these months of Covid, changes could be underway next year as we move towards a potentially ‘points-based’ system. The status of EEA and Swiss nationals could also change post-Brexit and the end of the transition period.”

We have many years’ industry experience in our part of the world. Whether you’re a landlord wanting advice on right-to-rent checks or a prospective tenant, contact us to learn more.