Legal 101

Landlords: Your Guide to Right to Rent Checks in 2021

Catherine Boxall
August 26, 2021

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Landlords and letting agents  must complete a ‘right to rent’ check on all their tenants in residential properties in England. A ‘right to rent’ check requires landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, denying lodgings to people who can’t prove they are permitted to live in a rented home in the UK. 

Right to rent checks must be completed on all tenants aged 18 and over. This includes permitted occupiers that may not be listed on a tenancy agreement: checks must be carried out on all adults who will list the property as their main home. 

How to carry out a right to rent check:

To carry out a right to rent check, landlords must ask the adults using the property for original documents that prove they live in the UK. These original documents might be a passport that shows citizenship or a person’s right of abode, a registration certificate, a document certifying permanent residence, a residency card, a biometric residence card or an immigration status document. You can read more about what original documents are permitted here

Once you have obtained the documentation, a landlord must check to see that a tenant has a right to rent their property and that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant, with them present (note the changes brought in under Coronavirus legislation below). A property is typically classified as a tenant’s main home if they live there for the majority of the time, keep the majority of their items there, live with family members there or register to vote or with the doctors using that property. When checking the documents it is crucial to ensure that the tenant’s permissions have not ended, the photo matches the tenant, the information across documents is consistent and that the documents are originals. The landlord must then make a copy of the document and keep hold of that copy for the entire length of the tenancy plus one year after. When making copies, it is crucial the landlord observes data protection laws. The landlord must also record the date that the check was made. 

If your tenant’s permission to stay in the UK is time limited, landlords must also make follow-up checks just before the end of the tenant’s permission to stay or 12 months after the previous check- whichever is later. If there is no such time limit a landlord does not need to do further checks after the initial confirmation. 

It is crucial that a landlord carries out their right to rent checks, including follow-ups. A landlord could be fined or sent to prison for up to 5 years if a tenant fails the check and the landlord does not report it to the Home Office. 

There are some listed circumstances where landlords are not required to complete the checks, these being where the listed accommodation is: 

  • Social housing 
  • A hostel or refuge 
  • A mobile home 
  • Student accommodation 
  • A care home, hospice or hospital  
  • Provided by a local authority 
  • Tied accommodation 
  • Has a lease that is 7 years or longer 

Right to rent and Coronavirus: 

On 30 March 2020, temporary changes were made to the right to rent checks. As aforementioned, checks have to be in person. However, due to Coronavirus a series of changes were made to ensure conformity with the Government’s ‘stay at home’ message, including: 

  • Checks could be carried out over video calls 
  • Tenants can send documents electronically, rather than sending originals 

These temporary changes will remain in place until 5th April 2022.

When checking a tenant’s right to rent, the landlord must record the date the check was made and mark it as an ‘adjusted check undertaken on [date] due to Covid-19’.

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These temporary measures will be suspended from 21 June 2021. Following this landlords must either continue to check the applicant’s original documents as above or check their right to rent online if the tenant provides them with a share code. The online right to rent service means that landlords don't need to check an individual's documents as right to rent information is provided from Home Office operations. However, landlords cannot insist individuals use this service. Furthermore, it is recognised that due to Coronavirus, some individuals might struggle to show their evidence and a landlord is obliged to ensure they are not discriminated against because of this. 

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