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Before a tenant moves into a landlord’s property they need to complete a right to rent check to verify their immigration status.
Read our right to rent guide for landlords to find out whose immigration status you need to check, which documents you can accept, and what could happen if you don’t comply.
We’ve outlined six key considerations to help you get started:
The right to rent scheme was introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014.
Put simply, it aims to make sure that all private tenants in England have the ‘right’ to rent their landlord’s property.
A tenant’s right to rent could be permanent, or it could be for a limited time due to their immigration status.
It's up to landlords (or letting agents acting on their behalf) to check the immigration of all prospective tenants before they move in.
Failure to do so could result in a fine or custodial sentence.
Right to rent first started as a pilot scheme in the West Midlands in December 2014. It was rolled out nationally in February 2016.
Since then, the scheme’s guidance has been updated regularly. The most recent version was published in April 2022 and you can read it on the government website.
Getting your immigration checks right is a crucial part of the pre-tenancy process. Read on for an overview of the steps you need to take.
When a tenant applies to rent your property, it’s a legal requirement to check their immigration status before you allow them to move in.
You’ll need to carry out a right to rent check for all prospective tenants over the age of 18.
Some tenants will have an unlimited right to rent, including:
Other tenants will have a time limit on their right to rent in the UK. When checking their immigration status, you’ll need to take a note of how long they’re allowed to stay for and then complete a follow-up check before the end of that time.
It’s important that landlords don’t discriminate and only check the immigration status of tenants they believe not to be British citizens. If you’re found to discriminate when completing immigration checks, you could face legal action.
In response to the war in Ukraine, the government launched the Homes for Ukraine Scheme in March 2022.
The scheme allows Ukrainian nationals to stay with British residents for up to three years, allowing landlords to provide accommodation to those in need.
Applicants to the scheme who have a valid Ukrainian passport can gain access to the UK for six months without having to submit biometrics or visit a visa application centre.
These people have a time-limited right to rent for 12 months, with landlords expected to complete a follow-up immigration check when this period is coming to an end.
There are more details on how the scheme works and the rules landlords need to follow on the government website.
Right to rent checks are sometimes complex and the consequences can be serious if you don’t do them properly. If you’re unsure about any part of the process, you should get professional legal advice.
If you have legal expenses insurance as part of your Simply Business policy, you have access to a legal advice helpline through DAS Businesslaw. You’ll just need your voucher code found in your policy documents to register.
Get your free guide to rent to rent checks.
There are several documents you can accept from tenants to complete a right to rent check. These include:
This list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty more documents you can accept that are outlined in the government guidance.
In April 2022, Biometric Residence Cards, Biometric Residence Permits, and Frontier Worker Permits were removed from the list of accepted documents for immigration checks.
If a prospective tenant presents one of these documents, you’ll need to use the Home Office’s online portal to check their immigration status.
To use this service, tenants will need to enter their details. They’ll then be provided with a ‘share code’ to give to their landlord. The landlord then enters this into the portal to check their immigration status.
Meanwhile if your prospective tenant has an outstanding case with the Home Office, you can use the landlord’s checking service to see if they have the right to rent in the UK.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, all right to rent checks needed to be completed in person. However, the success of temporary measures introduced during the pandemic mean checks can now be done via video call.
Until September 2022 (and potentially longer), tenants can send scanned or photographed versions of their documents to landlords or letting agents.
These documents must then be checked against the tenant’s identity, either in person or on a video call.
If you need to use the landlord checking service or online portal, you’ll still need to do this in the presence of the prospective tenant (either in person or online).
When checking your prospective tenants’ identity documents, it can sometimes be difficult to work out whether they’re genuine.
Here are some of the key things to look out for:
After you’ve checked prospective tenants’ documents, you’ll need to make a copy of them.
The copy needs to be something that can’t be changed, such as a photocopy or high quality photo.
It’s important to keep a record of the date you made the copy. Copies of documents should be kept for as long as the tenant lives in your property and a year after they leave.
Remember to follow GDPR regulations when making copies of documents and speak to an expert if you’re worried about data protection.
You could receive a five-year prison sentence or unlimited fine if the Home Office suspects you had ‘reasonable cause’ to believe one of your tenants didn’t have a legal right to rent in the UK.
This could include letting to the tenant even though:
You could also be fined if you can’t prove that you completed a right to rent check. This is why it’s so important to complete checks in the presence of the tenant and keep records of the documents you’ve checked.
Do you have any unanswered questions about right to rent checks? Let us know in the comments below.
Conor Shilling is a Copywriter at Simply Business with over two years’ experience in the insurance industry. A trained journalist, Conor has worked as a professional writer for 10 years. His previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor specialises in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.
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