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New Arrivals

'Right to Rent' checks by landlords

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

What are 'right to rent' checks?

If you apply for a rented home from a private landlord, you will have to show documents to prove your residency or immigration status. This is called having the 'right to rent'. This page explains how it works.

From February 2016, all landlords in England have had to check the documentation of tenants and have to pay a fine if they don't do so. This affects all new lettings including tenancies, licences, lodging arrangements and sub-lets.

Do right to rent checks apply to all rented accommodation?

No. Some lettings are exempt and in these cases document checks are not required:

  • holiday accommodation of less than three months.
  • housing provided by local authorities through homelessness or allocations procedures (including most housing association homes)
  • care homes
  • hospitals, hospices and other healthcare provision
  • hostels and refuges
  • local authority accommodation for homeless people
  • Home Office accommodation for migrants
  • mobile homes
  • accommodation provided by an employer to an employee or trainee - sometimes called 'tied' accommodation
  • student accommodation where this is in a hall of residence, a home provided via a nomination by an educational institution or in a building used mainly for student accommodation and managed by an educational institution or similar or a charity.

Whose documents are checked?

Documents for all adults expecting to live in the home have to be checked, including:

  • those who pay rent or other charges
  • anyone else allowed to live in the accommodation under the agreement with the landlord
  • anyone else living in the accommodation even if not named in the agreement, if the agreement allows it.

Who has the right to rent?

Before allowing anyone to move in, the landlord must ask for proof that they are in one of these groups:

  • A ‘relevant national’: a citizen of the UK, the European Economic Area or Switzerland: they are not covered by the legislation at all, but landlords will need proof that the occupant is in this group.
  • A person with an indefinite ‘right to rent’: someone with indefinite leave to remain or right of abode in the UK.
  • A person with a ‘time-limited right to rent’: someone who has limited leave to remain in the UK or a right to live in the UK under EU law (not a European citizen because they are ‘relevant nationals’ but, for example, the non- European husband, or the non-British parent of a British child who has no other leave).
  • A person with a discretionary right to rent: this can be granted by the Home Office to people who apply for it because they have no other right to rent.

Anyone else, not in one of the groups listed, does not have a right to rent and should not be offered the accommodation.

What else do you need to know about the document checks?

If your documents are not a simple passport, you might want to find them in this online guide so you can point them out to a landlord and they can be checked more quickly. Any documents must be copied by the landlord and kept for at least 12 months after the tenancy ends.

If you have a time-limited right to rent, your landlord must make new checks after a year, or (if it is longer) just before your current period of leave or right to live in the UK expires. If the landlord then finds out that you have no current leave or right to live in the UK he must report it immediately to the Home Office. This does not affect your tenancy or other rights to live in the home.

Landlords and agents should not discriminate in when they apply these rules. There is a Code of Practice to help make sure they do not. This means that they must check everyone’s documents, not just those of people who might look like migrants.  If you believe that you have been discriminated against, you can find guidance about challenging it here.

Landlords can appoint an agent to do the checks for them.

If landlords are found to have rented to someone with no right to rent then they can be fined up and possibly sent to prison.

What about people who have lived in the UK for a long time?

The right to rent checks can affect people who are long-term residents of the UK but do not have documents to demonstrate their status. The Home Office has issued this advice for long-term residents:

‘If a prospective tenant has lived in the UK permanently since before 1973 and has not been away for long periods in the last 30 years, they have the right to be here and to rent property

‘If a prospective tenant came to the UK after 1 January 1973 then they might not have the automatic right to be here, but they may be allowed to stay here permanently and will have the right to rent property.’

It recommends landlords use the checking service if they are not sure about how this guidance may apply to prospective tenants.  This new guidance is vague but should mean that longer-term residents ( for exemple, people originally from Commonwealth countries) should find landlords more ready to accept them without the documents that others may need to provide.  

Chartered Institute of Housing

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Chartered Institute of Housing