How landlords and letting agents check tenants

Coronavirus update:

Home Office guidance says that landlords can check documents over video calls or accept scanned copies or photos of original documents during the coronavirus outbreak.

These measures are in place until 30 September 2022.

Landlords or agents usually make checks to see if you're a reliable tenant who can afford the rent. They must also check your immigration status. 

Right to rent immigration checks

Landlords and agents are legally required to check the immigration status of any adult occupiers before they rent out a property.

This is called a right to rent check.

You can show a passport or residence document to pass the check. 

If you're not a British or Irish citizen, your passport or documents must confirm your permission to be in the UK.

Find out how to prove your right to rent.

If you don't have a passport, you have to provide 2 alternative documents instead. For example, a UK birth certificate and driving licence.  

The landlord or agent will take copies of the documents you show them.

It's against the law to discriminate against potential tenants on the grounds of race, ethnicity or nationality. For example, landlords can't refuse to consider a tenant just because they don't have a British passport. 

Financial checks

Landlords and agents usually want to check that you can pay the rent.  

They may ask to see:

  • an employment contract or letter from your employer

  • recent payslips or bank statements

  • proof of benefit entitlement  

Credit checks

Some agents run a check with a credit reference agency such as:

  • Experian

  • Equifax

They must ask for your written permission to do this.

Find out how to rent with a poor credit history.

A blanket ban on renting to tenants on benefits could be discriminatory if you can afford the rent.


Landlords or agents may ask for references from:

  • a current or previous landlord

  • your employer

This is to check you're likely to be reliable and trustworthy tenant. 


You might be asked to provide a guarantor if your landlord is concerned that you won't pay the full rent.

A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent or cover damage to the property if you don't pay it. 

Landlords and agents may want to run a credit check on the guarantor as well.

What happens if you don't pass the checks

If you don't pass the checks, you probably won't be offered a tenancy. 

Immigration checks

If you don't pass the check, the landlord or agent can't legally rent the property to you.  

They can keep your holding deposit if you've paid one providing they write to you and explain why within 7 days. Otherwise they must return it.

Financial checks

If you fail a financial check, you could:

  • ask if they'd consider a guarantor

  • offer to pay more rent in advance if you can

If you paid a holding deposit, this should be returned as long as you told the truth about your financial situation.

Last updated: 8 October 2021

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