Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

How landlords and letting agents check tenants

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 have 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 cannot refuse to consider a tenant just because they do not have a British passport. 

Income 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  

Letting agents should not refuse to rent to you just because you get benefits.

Find out how to challenge DSS discrimination.

Credit checks

Landlords and agents can only run a credit check with your permission.

This is to check your identity and does not affect your credit score.

They can only do a 'soft search'. This means they will only see information about you that is already publicly available. For example, if you have CCJs, an IVA or bankruptcy.

The credit check will not tell landlords if you have missed rent payments in the past but some landlords might check through landlord websites or social media.

Landlords and agents cannot charge for credit checks or other referencing checks.

You might not show up on a soft credit search if you're not registered to vote where you live.

Find out more about problems with credit checks by landlords.


Landlords or agents may ask for references from:

  • a current or previous landlord

  • your employer

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

What happens if you do not pass the checks

If you fail an income, credit or reference check, you could:

A guarantor is usually a relative or friend who agrees to pay the rent or cover damage to the property if you do not pay it. 

If you paid a holding deposit

Your holding deposit should be returned as long as you told the truth about your finances.

If you do not pass an immigration check, the landlord or agent cannot legally rent the property to you. They can only keep your holding deposit if they write to you within 7 days to explain why. Otherwise they must return it.

Last updated: 20 June 2023

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help