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What is the right to rent?

The right to rent means that a tenant has the legal right to rent property from the landlord. You have the right to rent if you:

Note that some undocumented Commonwealth citizens may have the right to rent. For more information, read the Government’s guidance.

You may have a time-limited right to rent if there's a time limit on your permission to stay in the UK. For example, if you have a work or study visa, or if you're a spouse or civil partner of someone with full and settled status in the UK.

You won't have the right to rent if you are in the UK illegally. Landlords can easily check if someone has the right to rent.

Who do you have to check?

All tenants and lodgers who are renting the property as their main home in England must be checked. It's illegal to only check people you think aren't British. If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time (eg if they have a work visa), you will need to do a check 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

If a tenant sub-lets the property, they become a landlord for the sub-tenant and will become liable if they do not carry out any checks. This means that sub-tenants must also be checked, as both the landlord and the 'superior landlord' (ie the original landlord) can both be liable for sub-letting property to a disqualified person (ie someone without the right to rent).

You won't need to check tenants in certain types of accommodation, including:

  • student housing (eg halls of residence)

  • social housing

  • a care home, hospice or hospital

  • a hostel or refuge

  • a mobile home

  • accommodation provided by a local authority

  • accommodation provided as part of their job (also known as 'tied accommodation')

For an exhaustive list of accommodations that do not require right to rent checks see the Governmet website.

The right to rent scheme doesn't apply to children. This means that a landlord may allow all those under the age of 18 to occupy a property.

The right to rent scheme also doesn't apply to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

How do you carry out a right to rent check?

You should follow these steps:

  1. Check that the tenants will use the rented property as their main or only home.

  2. Ask the tenants for original documents to prove that they can live in the UK. This may be a passport, driving licence, birth certificate or share code. A complete list can be found on the Home Office website

  3. Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date on which you made the check. You may need to carry out future checks, especially if the tenant has a limited time to remain in the UK.

  4. When making copies, make sure they are in a format that cannot be altered and store them in a secure and safe place.

For those with settled or pre-settled status, right to rent checks are normally carried out digitally. Those with settled or pre-settled status can provide a a share code which they can give to landlords.

For more information on the right to rent checks, see the Government’s guidance on carrying out  right to rent checks.

Follow-up checks

If your tenants have a time-limited rigth to rent, landlords or agents need to carry out follow-up checks to ensure they still have the right to rent. This must done before the date that is the later of:

  • the end of the tenant’s right to stay in the UK

  • one year after the previosu right to rent checks

What happens if the tenant's right to rent has expired?

The landlord (or their agent) should make a  report on the Government website if: 

  • the tenant's right to rent has expired, 

  • the tenant’s right to rent is about to expire

  • there is reason to belive that their papers were incorrect or false

The report should contain:

  • the name of the tenant whose right to rent has expired or is about to expire

  • the address of the property they are renting

  • name and contact of the landlord

  • name and address of the letting agent (if relevant)

  • the date that the tenant first moved in and started renting

If the Home Office sends the landlord a Notice of Letting to a Disqualified Person or a further check shows that the tenant or lodger no longer has the right to rent, then the landlord must take reasonable steps to evict them. For more information, read Ending a tenancy due to immigration status.

Are there penalties for not carrying out the right to rent checks?

Landlords or letting agents who fail to carry out the right to rent checks or fail to remove illegal migrants and those without a right to rent from their rented property can be convicted of a criminal offence.

Landlords or agents can be liable for fines (civil penalties) of up to £3,000 per tenant without a right to rent. They may also face unlimited criminal fines and a maximum prison sentence of 5 years for renting property in England to someone who they knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to rent in the UK. Landlords or agents may also be fined if they cannot show that they had checked the person’s right to rent.

To ensure you comply with the rules on renting out your property, read the Government’s guidance on Right to rent immigration checks: landlords' code of practice.

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