From 1st February 2016, it has been a legal requirement that all landlords and letting agencies conduct a right to rent check on potential tenants. This basically means that you must check the immigration status of a tenant and anybody that will be living with the tenant on a full-time basis. This will usually necessitate checking passport or other documents, and you will need to keep a copy for your records.

If a tenant is a British citizen without a passport, other official documents will suffice to meet these requirements. Even if you plan to share your property with a lodger, you need to conduct these checks.

If you do not complete this check, or if it is determined that you have additional tenants in a property and have not conducted these tests, you could be faced with a fine of up to £3,000 and the eviction of your tenants. You could still be liable for the fine, even if your tenants legally have the right to rent property in the UK.

The scheme was first trialled in the West Midlands in 2014 before eventually being rolled out to the rest of the country early in 2016, and it is now a legal requirement for all landlords to complete this check. Immigration minister James Brokenshire said “We firmly believe in creating an immigration system which is fair to those here legally, but firm with those who try to break the rules.” He went on to say that “the scheme builds on the Right to Work checks that employers have been making for some time.”

Who Needs To Conduct The Checks?

All tenants must prove that they have the right to rent, and it is the legal responsibility of the landlord or letting agent to ensure that tenants have the right. The check must be carried out before a tenancy agreement is signed, but once the check is complete, you do not need to conduct repeat or additional checks in most cases, even if the tenant extends their tenancy agreement.

If the tenant is unable to provide a full and valid UK passport, you MAY need to conduct repeat checks in the future.

Whether you have a single property or an HMO, or even if you rent out a single room in your family home, you need to ensure that all tenants aged over 18 have the right to rent in the UK.

The checks are mandatory for all adult tenants, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement. This is important if you are renting to a family or group. Anybody that will be using the premises as their primary address, and is aged over 18, must be checked and must pass the check, before they are allowed to reside in the property.

How To Do The Check

The check is actually a fairly simple one. Essentially, you need to check residency documents and ensure that they are valid and permit the holder to rent. In the simplest situation, this means checking the original passport of a potential tenant, while they are present, and then keeping a copy for your records.

Once you have the documents, you can check their validity by using the government right to rent website. You will need details of the property that you are looking to rent, and the documents provided by the potential tenant.

Permitted Documents

Single Documents

Any single document from the following list can be used and gives a tenant the right to permanently reside in the country, so no further checks are required with these documents:

  • UK passport
  • EEA/Swiss national passport or identity card
  • Registration Certificate certifying permanent residence of EEA
  • EEA/Swiss family member Permanent Residence card
  • Biometric Residence Permit
  • Passport, travel document, or UK immigration status document with unlimited leave
  • A certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen

Two Documents

In some cases, it is possible to accept a combination of 2 of the following documents, where one of list A is not available:

  • UK birth or adoption certificate
  • Full or provisional driving license
  • A letter from
    • HM Prison Service
    • a UK Government Department or Local Authority
    • National Offender Management Service
    • the police stating that certain documents have been stolen
    • a private rented sector access scheme
    • an employer
    • criminal record check
    • benefits paperwork

Time Sensitive Documents

There are also certain documents that give time-limited permission to stay in the country. In these cases, you will need to conduct additional checks when the time is set to run out – keep a record of when the tenant’s right to rent runs out and ensure that you complete a further check within 30 days of that date.

  • A passport endorsed with a time limit
  • Biometric immigration document with a time limit
  • Non-EEA national residence card
  • UK immigration status document

You can check the full list of acceptable documents on the government website, and even download a checklist to help ensure that you and your tenants meet the criteria.

Other Right To Rent Requirements

It is your legal requirement to ask for documents, check them in the presence of the tenant, and then retain the documents in case you are asked to prove that you completed the check. You should keep records, including any written notes of when and how you conducted checks, any service that you used to complete the check, and a copy of the documents provided, until the end of the tenancy agreement and for a reasonable time after the agreement comes to an end.

The Consequences

It is in your best interest to ensure that these checks are completed properly and in a timely manner, because the government introduced a range of actions that can be taken against landlords and agents that do not follow these rules. You could be liable for a fine of up to £3,000 if you rent to somebody that does not have the right to rent, with unlimited fines for those that were aware that the tenant did not have the right to legally rent.

At PDF Estates Ltd we offer full property management and tenant management services. We ensure that any potential tenant has the right to rent. We conduct the checks on your behalf, follow up on any time dependant documents, and we retain documents in the event that you are investigated or asked to provide evidence of completing necessary checks.