Landlords who use online platforms like OpenRent to find tenants need to carry out checks to make sure the tenants have the right to rent property in the UK.
Although online referencing providers will check identities by asking applicants to upload ID documents, this isn’t enough to confirm the applicants have the right to rent in the UK.
This blog post explains how self-letting and self-managing landlords can do their own Right to Rent checks. In writing this post, I draw on my experience as both a lawyer and carrying out my own right to rent checks as a self-managing landlord.
Landlord Guide to Right to Rent
- What exactly is Right to Rent?
- How should landlords check original right to rent documents?
- Which documents prove British or Irish tenants have the right to rent?
- Which documents prove non British or Irish have right to rent ?
- How often should landlords check the right to rent?
- What are the new 2024 fines if tenants don’t have the right to rent?
What exactly is Right to Rent?
Right to rent refers to the obligation on landlords to check that every person aged 18 or over is legally entitled to rent property in the UK before they move into the property.
If a prospective tenant cannot prove their right to rent, they cannot move into the rental property.
All tenants 18+ must be checked. It’s against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens. You must not discriminate against anyone because of where they were born, or make assumptions about their nationality on the basis of their accent or appearance. Not everyone with a British accent is actually British, and many British nationals have other accents.
This is a complicated area, and it is possible to delegate the responsibility to letting agents. However, if landlord uses online letting agents such as OpenRent, they will will need to check and copy the original documents themselves before handing over the keys, and keep a record.
How should landlords check original right to rent documents?
Landlords (or their letting agents) need to check whether every adult (ie over 18) has the right to use your rental property as their main home. They need to look at the original documents (not copies) that are on the lists below, while the tenants are present.
Landlords should take a photocopy or a photograph of the document. For passports, copy the pages with the expiry date, nationality, date of birth and photograph. Do also take copies of endorsements such as a work visa or a Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK.For other documents, take a complete copy.
Finally, record the date you make the copy, and file it all somewhere safe and secure. Don’t keep copies of the documents on your phone.
Which documents prove British or Irish tenants have the right to rent?
British or Irish citizens – Passports or Naturalisation Certificate
If the person is a UK or Irish citizen, they can provide the following to prove their right to rent:
- a British passport (current or expired)
- an Irish passport or passport card (current or expired)
- a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
How can British / Irish tenants prove right to rent it they don’t have a passport?
If a British or Irish citizen doesn’t have a passport, they can prove they have the right to rent by providing two of the following documents:
- a current UK driving licence (full or provisional)
- a full birth or adoption certificate from the UK, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man or Ireland
- a letter from the tenant’s employerwithin the last 3 months
- a letter from a British passport holder in an ‘accepted profession’
- a letter from a UK government department or local council
- proof the tenant currently get benefits
- a letter from a British school, college, or university that the tenant currently go to
- a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate
- proof that the tenant has served in the UK armed forces
- a letter within the last 3 months from a private rented sector access scheme or a voluntary organisation that’s helping the tenant with housing
- a letter confirming the tenant has been released from prison within the past 6 months
- a letter confirming the tenant is on probation from your offender manager from within the last 3 months
- a letter within the last three months from the UK police about the theft of the tenant’s passport
Which documents prove non British or Irish have right to rent ?
If the tenant is not a British or Irish citizen, they can can prove your right to rent in England with:
It’s easy checking the right to rent of foreign nationals online if they have a share code – I’ve done it myself. You can check their share code on this GOV.UK page.
That said, tenant has the right to choose which option they wish to use. Their landlord cannot turn down their application because them gave them an eligible immigration document instead of a share code, for example.
How often should landlords check the right to rent?
Tenants with a permanent right to rent
If tenants have a permanent right to rent, landlords only need to check the documents once, before the original tenancy starts. In other words, there’s no need to check the right to rent again if the tenancy is renewed.
Tenants with a time-limited right to rent
Tenants who are not British or Irish may have valid immigration permission for a limited period of time. This includes pre-settled status via the EU Settlement Scheme, or time-limited permission under the points based immigration system renters.
Landlords should check the right to rent if it’s time-limited either before 12 months have passed or if the time-limited right rent expires after a 12 month period, then before the right to rent expires.
The Landlord has a legal obligation to inform the Home Office if they become aware that a renter has lost or is about to lose their right to rent.
However, landlords should be aware that a properly done right to rent check will always protect the landlord from prosecution for at least 12 months. This means that a tenant who has a right to stay in the UK for six months can still be given a 12 month tenancy. Similarly, landlords only need to perform a follow-up check 10 or 11 months after their previous right to rent check.
>> Practical tip: Landlords should make a note of when the time limit on their tenants’ stay expires and check shortly before this time limit expires. For example, if someone has a visa for 3 years, the landlord should perform a follow-up check one or two months before it expires.
What about children and young adults?
If a minor turns 18 years of age during a tenancy agreement, they are permitted to continue living there, and the landlord isn’t required to carry out a right to rent check at the point the child turns 18 years of age.
However, where follow-up checks are required for the other existing tenants, the now adult should be included in those checks when they are due.
What are the new 2024 fines if tenants don’t have the right to rent?
The Home Office announced on 7 August 2023 that fines are due to be tripled for landlords (and employers) who “allow illegal migrants to rent their properties” from 1 January 2024.
For landlords, the fines for a first breach will be the following:
- Lodger: £5,000 per lodger. For a repeat offence it is £10,000.
- Tenants: £10,000 per tenant. This means the fine for a family of four would be £40,000. For a repeat offence it is £20,000 per person.
This increase is due to the government taking a hard line against “illegal immigrants”:
There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties
Clearly with tough penalties such as these, landlords will need to make sure they carry out the checks properly and keep records of the checks. However, it’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against people who are foreign or appear foreign, unless of course they can’t prove their right to rent in the UK.