Landlords who don’t use letting agents and find their own tenants using online platforms like OpenRent need to carry out checks to make sure that their tenants’ (and permitted occupiers’) immigration status gives them the right to rent property in the UK. The government have brought in new rules which increase the maximum civil penalty for landlords and letting agents from £1,000 to £10,000 from 13 February 2024 for allowing “an adult to occupy premises in England who is disqualified from renting by reason of their immigration status, without a statutory excuse”.
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 right to rent checks as a self-managing landlord.
>> Useful Resource: Home Office: Code of practice on right to rent: Right to Rent Scheme for landlords and their agents – comes into effect on 13 February 2024 (37 pages)
>> Useful Resource: Home Office: Landlord’s guide to right to rent checks This is comprehensive (106 pages)
>> Useful Resource: Home Office: Guide for tenants and landlords on right to rent and immigration documents (21 pages)
UK Landlord Guide to Right to Rent in 2024
- What exactly is Right to Rent in the UK?
- How should landlords check original right to rent documents?
- Which documents prove British or Irish tenants have the right to rent?
- How can foreign nationals prove they have a right to rent ?
- How often should landlords check the right to rent?
- How to do a manual check of Right to Rent documents
- What if the landlord has concerns about the documents?
- The new 2024 fines for landlords if tenants don’t have the right to rent
What exactly is Right to Rent in the UK?
Right to rent refers to the obligation of landlords to check the immigration status of every “occupier” aged 18 or over to make sure they are legally entitled to rent property in the UK before they move into the property. “Occupier” means tenants, permitted occupiers and lodgers who are living in the property as their only or main home. When I use the word tenant in this post, it means occupiers in this wider sense. The term “landlord” includes those who are tenants subletting to another person.
If a prospective occupier cannot prove their right to rent, they cannot move into the rental property.
All occupiers 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. The best way to do this is to treat all applicants the same, regardless of whether you believe them to be British or Irish.
House guests, such as friends or family members, who stay for a temporary period as a guest are not included as the property won’t be their only or main home.
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 need to check and copy the original documents themselves before handing over the keys, and keep a record.
>> Related Post: How to handle subletting
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 and Irish citizens, including those who are naturalised citizens, have an permanent right to rent in the UK. However, the landlord needs to see documents which prove they have this unlimited right to rent. Landlords can delegate the right to rent checks for British and Irish citizens to a certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP). IDSPs are authorised to validate the identity and right to rent of British and Irish nationals on behalf of a landlord remotely. However, it’s also possible for landlords to do it themselves.
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 using these “Group 1” documents:
- 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 from “Group 2”:
- 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 their employer within 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 they currently get benefits
- a letter from a British school, college, or university that they currently go to.
- a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.
- proof that they have 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 them with housing
- a letter confirming they have been released from prison within the past 6 months.
- a letter confirming they probation from their offender manager from within the last 3 months.
- a letter within the last three months from the UK police about the theft of their passport
Landlords (or letting agents) should keep copies of the documents taken for the duration of the tenancy agreement and for at least one year afterwards.
How can foreign nationals prove they have a right to rent ?
If the tenant is not a British or Irish citizen, they can prove your right to rent in England with the following:
1. How to check a Right to Rent share code for a foreign national
A share code is a 9-digit number that allows a landlord to look up someone’s right to rent when they’re not a British or Irish citizen. It’s the easiest way to check the right to rent of people with other nationalities. In order to check the share code, it’s a simple matter of It’s simple to enter entering the share code and date of birth into the form on this page: GOV.UK page. You will receive an answer straight away confirming whether they have the right to rent, and if they do, the date when the right to rent expires (if it’s a time-limited right to rent).
The prospective tenant needs to apply online in advance for the share code on this GOV.uk webpage, and provide it with their date of birth to their landlord. The code is valid for 90 days.
Save a copy of the confirmation you receive.
2. Original immigration documents and other documents
If the tenant doesn’t have or doesn’t want to use a share code, a landlord can look at their original immigration documents. This is quite complicated, but this useful Home Office online tool makes it straightforward.
The tenant has the right to choose whichever method they wish to use. Their landlord cannot turn down their application because they 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 (such as British citizens or Europeans with EU Settled Status), 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. 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.
Follow up checks: when the right to rent expires or the tenant doesn’t cooperate
If your follow-up checks show that a tenant no longer has the right to rent, or if they don’t co-operate, the landlord must make a report to the Home Office using this online form. The form will generate a unique reference number which you should keep. Landlords must make the report as soon as reasonably possible and before your existing time-limited statutory excuse expires.
If the landlord doesn’t do a follow up check, they could be fined (see below). If the tenant fails a follow up check, and the landlord doesn’t report it to the Home Office, the landlord could be sent to prison for up to 5 years.
Copies of documents should not be submitted when making a report but should be retained as set out in the initial right to rent checks for future enquiries.
All copies of documents taken should be kept for the duration of the tenancy agreement and for at least one year thereafter.
How to do a manual check of Right to Rent documents
In order to do a manual check of Right to Rent documents, you need to do it in the applicant’s presence and look for the following:
- Obtain the original documents from the applicants / tenants. Check the original documents and not photocopies. This makes it easier to spot if the documents have been complied with.
- Check the documents in the presence of the prospective tenant or tenants for the following:
- Do the documents look genuine?
- Are there signs they’ve been tampered with?
- Are the documents for the same person as the applicant?
- Are the photographs and dates of birth consistent across the documents?
- If the names are different, can the difference be explained by other original documents eg marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, deed poll). The landlord must copy thes supporting documents and keep copies.
- Check the immigration Permission to Enter or Stay in the UK has not expired
- Copy each document, and keep it safe. You can write on the document the date the right to rent check was made, and should make a note of the date when you made the check. Keep either electronic or hard copies throughout the tenancy and for at least one year after the tenancy agreement ends. After then, you can destroy them.
What if the landlord has concerns about the documents?
If the landlord has concerns about the documents, they can make a request to via the online tool of the Landlord Checking Service to establish whether their prospective tenant has a right to rent, or call the Landlord Helpline (see below). Keep a record of your application and don’t start the tenancy agreement until you get a reply.
Home Office Right to Rent Checker tool
Landlords can also use this useful Home Office online tool to check if the applicant or existing tenant has the right to rent in the UK. The online tool helps landlords understand which types of documents give someone the right to rent in the UK and how to check the documents. Keep a copy of
Home Office Landlord Helpline for Right to Rent
If landlords are in any doubt what to do and need help with a Right to Rent check, they should call the Home Office Landlord helpline on 0300 790 6268, Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm Friday, 9am to 4:30pm. It’s a free service.
The new 2024 fines for landlords if tenants don’t have the right to rent
The Home Office significantly increased the level of fines for landlords and letting agents who “allow illegal migrants to rent their properties” by bringing in new rules with effect from 22 January 2024.
For landlords, the increased 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, up from £1,000. 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 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.