If you rent out property, then you need to know about the Right to Rent
Many people are not aware that you need to have a right to rent in order to take out a tenancy over a property, and that it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make sure all of their tenants comply. Even if you are aware of the principal, you might know what it means in practice or how the rules apply to you. The aim of this article is to provide you with an outline as to what Right to Rent means, the checks that will be completed and what happens if as a landlord you do not do these checks.
What does Right to Rent mean for me?
Right to Rent was introduced under the Immigration Act 2014, so it is a relatively new set of rules that all residential landlords must comply with.
The aim of the legislation is to make it harder for illegal immigrants to rent property. The Act places restrictions on illegal immigrants being able to rent any kind of property in England by making all adults prove that they are in the United Kingdom legally before they can be granted a tenancy. Before a landlord can let a property, they must undertake a process which is called the Right to Rent check, to make sure they are not in breach of the Act.
People who are allowed to be in the UK have an automatic right to rent property. People who are not allowed to be here do not have a right to rent. The aim of the check is to establish whether a prospective tenant has the right to rent.
What is a Right to Rent check?
This is when an adult who wishes to take a tenancy over a rental property shows the original of their identity documents in person to a landlord or their letting agent.
The landlord or letting agent must take a copy of the documents that has been provided to them, and record that the check has been completed. If a tenant has a time limited right to rent (such as if they have a visa allowing them to be in the country, but with an expiry date, rather than indefinite leave to remain) then the check must be done within 28 days of the start date of the tenancy and the visa must be valid as at the proposed tenancy start date.
Right to rent checks also applies to householders who are letting private rented accommodation, or taking in a lodger, so they also need to carry out the checks. Anyone who lives in a property as a tenant or occupier, and sub-lets all or part of the property, or takes in a lodger, should also make the checks. For example, if you decide to buy a two-bedroom house and let one of the rooms out, while you occupy the other, you must still complete this check on whoever is going to take that room.
What documents are acceptable?
Acceptable documents that a tenant can use to demonstrate their identity and Right to Rent are dependent on their nationality.
Options for EEA (including EU nationals)/Swiss citizens are:
- Valid Passport
- valid EEA*/Swiss national ID card
- combination of valid UK driving licence & original UK birth certificate (British citizens only)
Options for all other nationalities are a combination of passport and a valid visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
If I do not have my documents what are the consequences?
If any adult occupant fails to present themselves and their original documents proving a valid Right to Rent then all occupants may be denied access to the rental property until this requirement is satisfied. You must provide these documents prior to renting the property.
What about expired documents?
It does not matter if the document has expired. Seeing an original current or expired British, EEA or Swiss passport with a recognisable photograph of the person is enough to show that a person has the right to rent. A current or expired passport from another country is also acceptable, if the person can provide evidence that shows that they have the right to be in the United Kingdom. Any document which is used to demonstrate a right to rent which is time-limited, rather than indefinite, should be valid at the time of the letting. Expired documents are not acceptable as evidence of a right to rent for a time-limited period.
Should children be checked?
A landlord, agent or householder does not need to check an occupier’s children, but they should satisfy themselves that they are under the age of 18 at the time the tenancy begins and keep evidence of this. This can be demonstrated by, for example, seeing their original passport.
What are the landlords or agents’ responsibilities?
The landlord/agent must:
- Complete the check on all adults who will be occupying the property
- Ask tenants for the original documents that show they have the right to be in the UK
- Check the original documents with the tenant physically present and ensure they are valid
- Make copies of the original documents and record when the check was completed
- Conduct follow up checks at the appropriate time. For example, repeat the check when a tenant’s visa expires.
- If follow up checks reveal that an adult in a rental property, no longer has a valid ‘Right to Rent’ then the landlord/lettings agent must report that person to the Home Office.
What if my tenant’s right to rent has run out?
Some permits will expire during the term of the tenancy. If so, then the checks need to be repeated at the expiry date, to ensure that the tenant’s right to rent is going to continue. Landlords should make copies of the documents and keep them with their records. If you have a tenant that has a permit that will expire during the period of the tenancy, ensure you make a note of the date, and diarise to check back with the tenant at that time for an update.
The forthcoming immigration bill proposes new measures to make it easier for landlords to evict illegal tenants. Landlords will be expected to evict illegal immigrants soon after receiving a Home Office notice that their tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK. It is possible that in some circumstances, landlords will be able to act without a court order.
You must carry out these checks as it will become a criminal offence should you not. Landlords and letting agents who repeatedly fail to carry out right to rent checks or fail to remove illegal immigrants from their properties will be found to be criminal.
If an illegal immigrant is found living in a landlord’s property and sufficient checks have not been carried out, the landlord may also be liable for a civil penalty of up to £3,000. The amount will depend on whether it is a first offence, and if the property is let to a lodger or the landlord is letting private accommodation.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.