Right to rent immigration checks

Private tenants and lodgers are among those who now face passport and identity checks due to a new 'right to rent' law.

What is the right to rent?

From 1 February 2016 you can only become a private tenant or lodger in England if immigration law allows you the 'right to rent'. Not everyone has the 'right to rent'.

You have this right if you are a:

  • British citizen
  • citizen of a country in the EU or EEA
  • citizen of another country with no time limits on your permission to live in the UK (such as indefinite leave to remain)

You can have a time-limited right to rent if there's a time limit on your permission to stay. This is likely if you have a visa for work, study or as a spouse. It also applies if you have humanitarian protection, exceptional or discretionary leave to remain.

See Gov.uk to check if someone has the right to rent.

Right to rent checks for private tenancies

A landlord or letting agent must carry out a right to rent check before you start a private tenancy in England. The checks apply to verbal or written agreements that start on or after 1 February 2016. 

They'll check your immigration status and that of anyone aged 18 or over who will be living with you (such as your husband, wife or other family member). Right to rent checks also apply to lodgers and subtenants.

No checks are needed for children under the age of 18 or guests.

Right to rent checks aren't needed if your tenancy started before 1 February 2016 anywhere in England apart from six areas in the West Midlands. 

Right to rent checks started on 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

No check is needed if you later sign up to a new tenancy at the same property if nobody new is moving into the property. Ask your landlord for permission if a new person wants to move in.

A landlord or letting agent is allowed to charge you a fee for right to rent checks.

Find out more about the costs of private renting.

How landlords check you have the right to rent

A landlord or letting agent must see your passport or certain other official documents that prove your immigration status. If you are a British or Irish citizen, your birth certificate plus another accepted proof of identity is usually enough.

For a full list of acceptable documents, see the: Right to rent documents check: a user's guide.

They'll take copies of your documents and must keep the copies safe. 

Landlords or letting agents can ask for a right to rent check from the Home Office if your original documents are with the Home Office because you have an ongoing immigration application or appeal. 

You'll usually need to provide your Home Office reference number. They should get a response within 2 days.

Get advice if you don't have any proof of your right to rent. An adviser may be able to help you get the right documents. 

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice service.

Follow-up checks 

Your landlord only needs to make a follow-up check if your permission to stay in the UK and your right to rent is time-limited. A follow-up check must then be carried out before the latest of these dates:

  • 12 months after the last check
  • the date your permission to stay in the UK runs out
  • the date your passport (or other document showing your right to be in the UK) expires

Your landlord must tell the Home Office if a follow up check shows you no longer have the right to rent.

Checks if you sub-let or rent out a room

From 1 February 2016, you must carry out a right to rent check before you take in a lodger or sub-let part of your home. This applies to private, council and housing association tenants. You don't have to do the checks if your landlord confirms in writing that they will do them.

Right to rent checks aren't needed for a lodger or subtenant who moved in before 1 February 2016 anywhere in England apart from six areas in the West Midlands.

Right to rent checks started on 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

If your lodger or sub-tenant's original agreement started before these dates, no check is needed if it's renewed.

Penalties

It's an offence if the required right to rent checks aren't done by a landlord or letting agent.

Landlords and letting agents who rent to someone who doesn't have the right to rent can be fined £1,000 (£3,000 for further offences). 

Someone renting to a lodger who doesn't have the right to rent can be fined £80 (£500 for further offences).

Window 

Guests

Right to rent checks are not needed for guests in your home.

A guest includes someone whose main home is somewhere else or who does not pay rent. Contributions towards food and costs such as gas and electricity don't count as rent.

Eviction if you don't have the right to rent

Your landlord doesn't have to evict you if you don't have the right to rent. 

If your landlord wants you to leave, they must give you proper notice and follow the correct legal process for eviction. Unless you live with your landlord, a possession order from a court is needed and only court bailiffs can evict you. 

Find out more the eviction of private tenants and the eviction of lodgers and subtenants.

Immigration checks if you apply as homeless

A right to rent check isn't needed if you are offered a private rented home as part of a homelessness application. 

Your immigration status is checked using different rules if you make a homelessness application to a local council.

Discrimination against tenants

It's illegal for a landlord or letting agent to discriminate against you on the basis of your race, nationality, religion or belief. 

Consult a housing adviser if you think you've been discriminated against. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice service.

Find out more from Citizens Advice about discrimination in housing.

 

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