Right to Rent Checks Explained for Landlords

As a landlord, you have many responsibilities to both your property and to your tenants. And one of the most important duties you have is conducting proper Right to Rent checks.

Right to Rent means that landlords must conduct sufficient background checks to ensure that their tenants have the legal right to rent property in the UK. If a landlord is caught renting to illegal tenants without completing Right to Rent checks, they could face a large fine, so it’s important you familiarise yourself with the legislation.

To help explain the process, we’ve put together a Right to Rent checklist, detailing everything from Right to Rent documents to conducting background checks. That way, you have everything you need to know when renting your property to new tenants.

What is the Right to Rent Scheme?

The Right to Rent scheme requires landlords to check that all tenants occupying their properties have legal status to live within the UK. This means a landlord or letting agent must undertake passport and immigration checks before a tenant can rent a property.

Many landlords were taking this step before it was compulsory. However, it’s now that case that any who don’t comply with the legislation risk being hit with a substantial fine. To avoid this, landlords need to ensure that they carry out the appropriate checks within the 28-day period leading up to a new tenancy.

Right to Rent applies to a range of residential agreements, including:

  • Tenancies

  • Sub-tenancies

  • Leases of less than seven years

  • Sub-leases

  • Licences

When was the Right to Rent Scheme introduced?

The Right to Rent scheme was first introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s larger plans to help create a fairer and more effective immigration system in the UK. The Immigration Act aims to deter those who are illegally residing in the UK from remaining in the country.

Right to Rent was phased in at the end of 2014, when councils in Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton tested the effectiveness of the scheme. After an initial six-month review to assess the impact of the Right to Rent Act, it was rolled out nationwide in February 2016.

Landlord responsibilities

As of 2016, all UK landlords are expected to conduct Right to Rent checks whenever they are looking to rent a property to a prospective tenant. Pending a successful check, landlords are permitted to rent out accommodation to anyone who has unlimited right to rent. Examples include British citizens, a Swiss National or someone from the European Economic Area.

The Right to Rent Act also permits those with time-limited renting rights, such as non-EU citizens who hold visas.

How to carry out a Right to Rent check

1. Right to Rent document checklist

There are several types of documentation that are acceptable to complete a Right to Rent check.

Examples of acceptable documentation include:

  • A British or EU passport or National Identity Card

  • A non-EU passport which shows that the holder has been granted unlimited leave in the UK

  • A Home Office Certificate or residence permit card indicating permanent residency

  • A certificate of naturalisation

2. Carrying out a background check

Once a landlord is in possession of a tenant’s documents, they need to conduct background checks to determine their validity. Photographs and dates of birth, for example, should be consistent across all documents and match the appearance of the tenant.

Once satisfied with a tenant’s documents, you must keep a copy of each one along with the date that you made the check.

There are also tenant referencing companies available that offer ID checking services. These are a great tool for landlords that don’t have the facilities or experience to sufficiently complete the checks themselves.

Alternatively, you may ask any agents that manage or let your property to conduct the checks for you — make sure to have this agreement in writing.

What to do if a tenant fails a Right to Rent check?

In the event that a tenant doesn’t have the right documents to pass a Right to Rent check, you’ll need to use the landlord’s checking service to verify if they are permitted to rent without the documents.

Situations where this applies include:

  • When the Home Office has a tenants documents

  • When a tenant has an outstanding case or appeal with the home office

  • When the Home Office has told a tenant that they have ‘permission to rent’

Penalties for housing illegal tenants

If a landlord is found to be housing an illegal tenant without having undertaken sufficient background checks, they may be liable for a civil penalty of up to £3000. The exact amount of the penalty will depend on whether it’s a landlord’s first offence and whether the property is private accommodation.

If the tenant fails to pass a further check, the landlord must inform the Home Office and, if necessary, evict the tenant.

Make Right to Rent a central part of your tenant vetting process

Although a Right to Rent check is an important piece of legislation for landlords to complete, the process is simple to integrate into your tenant vetting procedure. Ensuring that you’re up to date on your checks means that you’re protecting yourself from potentially hefty fines and ensuring that your properties are being let to tenants that are lawfully allowed to rent them.

If you need more information on Right to Rent checks, you can contact the landlord’s helpline at 0300 069 9799.