What is “Right to Rent”?
Letting private property to an illegal migrant can result in a civil penalty in England, whether or not you were aware of their right to rent in the UK when you entered into the tenancy agreement with them. The penalty for illegal renting in England is a five year prison sentence or an unlimited fine.
Conducting Right to Rent checks shows that you are making an effort to prevent an illegal let. If you have records demonstrating your right to rent check, and it turns out that your tenant or lodger provided you with false documents, then you have a statutory excuse against a civil penalty if you had absolutely no reason to believe that the papers were false or incorrect.
You can conduct right to rent checks on existing or prospective tenants, but you are only legally required to check someone’s right to rent if the tenancy commenced on or after 1st February 2016 in England (or, for Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, or Wolverhampton: 1st December 2014).
You may be issued a “referral notice” or “information request”, asking you to prove that you’ve done a check. Once the case has been investigated, you will either receive a “no action” notice or a civil penalty notice.
How to check your tenant’s right to rent:
The first step is to inform the tenant that you will need to obtain their original documents that allow them to live in the UK. This applies to any tenants aged 18 or over who will be living in your property as their main home, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement.
Ensure that you conduct right to rent checks with all prospective tenants, as to avoid discrimination. British citizenship is not exclusive to a single race or accent, and it is illegal to only check those who you don’t believe to be British citizens.
Tenants who live in the following types of accommodation are exempt from right-to-rent checks:
Check that the documents are genuine originals with your tenant present:
- that they have permission to stay in the UK and that this hasn’t expired.
- dates of birth are identical across all documents
- documents don’t look as if they have been amended
- photographs on the documents are of the tenant
- documents to support any name changes, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree
The most common types of acceptable documents include (but are not limited to): UK passport; passport or travel document endorsed with unlimited leave; UK immigration status document endorsed with unlimited leave; a Biometric Residence Permit with unlimited leave; certificate of naturalisation or registration as a British citizen.
If there is a time limit on your tenant’s permission to stay, you are responsible for follow-up checks to ensure that you can legally continue letting to the tenant. You can be fined for failing to follow-up on a tenant’s right-to-rent if their permission to stay comes to an end. If your tenant is no longer legally permitted to rent in England during a follow-up check, you must report them to the Home Office.
You are not required to do a follow-up check if your tenant has permanent residence.
Make a hard copy of your tenant’s document, and have them signed and dated for your records.
This can be a photocopy or a high quality photograph. With passports, you will need to make a copy of every page that states the expiry date or applicant details, including visas and Certificates of Entitlement. Biometric residence permits should be copied on both sides.
What if a tenant doesn’t have their documents?
For whatever reason, your tenant or prospective tenant may not be in possession of their documents. If their documents are with the Home Office, or they claim that they have permission from the Home Office, you can check with the Home Office directly by filling in this application. The Home Office will verify within 2 days whether or not they are currently holding the person’s documents or if the person has an appeal outstanding or an application with the Home Office.