Right to rent checks

Before a landlord can rent out a residential property in England, they must check that the tenant or lodger has the 'right to rent'. Before the start of a new tenancy, the landlord must check all tenants aged 18 and over even if:

  • they are not named on a tenancy agreement
  • there is no tenancy agreement
  • the tenancy agreement is not in writing

It is not necessary to check tenants in certain types of accommodation such as a mobile homes or student accommodation. However, the legal obligation to make these checks will apply to many thousands of landlords across England. 

The basic procedure is that the landlord must:

  • check which adults will be the 'tenant'
  • ask them for original documents to prove they can live in the UK
  • check these documents to establish that they have the right to rent property
  • check that each tenants' documents are genuine and belong to them, with the tenant present
  • make and keep copies of the documents and record the date the cheque was made

If the landlord rents a property to someone who is not allowed to stay in England, the landlord could get an unlimited fine or face criminal proceedings.

Due to the impact of Covid 19, the government adjusted the process to make it easier for landlords to make these checks.

Clearly the obligation to obtain original documents with a tenant present created a challenge during social distancing. Accordingly, the government adjusted the process from 30 March 2020 so that:

  • checks can be carried out over video calls
  • tenants can send scanned documents or photocopy of documents for cheques using an email or mobile app, rather than sending originals

These temporary measures have been further extended again and are now in place until 31 August 2021. This means that landlords can continue to use the temporary procedure up to and including this date. The government has made it clear that it is not necessary to repeat the checks using the ordinary procedure for tenants who have been checked between 30 March 2020 and 31 August 2021.

There is a further change for European Economic Area (EEA) citizens from 1 July 2021. From this date, EEA citizens and their family members require immigration status in the UK. They can no longer rely on an EEA passport or national identity card which only confirm their nationality, to prove their right to rent. They will be required to provide evidence of lawful immigration status in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals.

There is detailed guidance as to the requirements on the government website.

To discuss this or any other landlord and tenant related matter, contact us.

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