Right to rent

This information is relevant to England only.

If you want to privately rent out property in England, a tenant's 'right to rent' status must be checked by the landlord or letting agent before you can legally rent out your residential property.

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What is the right to rent?

The rent to right means that a tenant has the legal right to rent property from the landlord. You have the right to rent if you are:

  • a British citizen
  • a citizen of a country in the EU or EEA (European Economic Area)
  • a citizen of another country with no time limits on your permission to live in the UK (such as those with indefinite leave to remain, eg you have shown a commitment to staying in the UK on a temporary visa)

You may have a time-limited right to rent if there's a time limit on your permission to stay in the UK. For example, if you have a work or study visa, or if you're a spouse or civil partner of someone with full and settled status in the UK.

You won't have the right to rent if you are in the UK illegally. Landlords’ can easily check if someone has the right to rent.

Who do you have to check?

All tenants and lodgers in England must be checked. It's illegal to only check people you think aren't British. If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, for example, those on a work visa, you will need to do a check 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

If a tenant sub-lets the property, they become a landlord for the sub-tenant and will become liable if they do not carry out any checks. Therefore, sub-tenants must also be checked, as both the landlord and the 'superior landlord' (ie the original landlord) can both be liable for sub-letting property to a disqualified person (ie someone without the right to rent).

You won't need to check tenants in the following types of accommodation:

  • social housing
  • a care home, hospice or hospital
  • a hostel or refuge
  • a mobile home
  • student accommodation
  • accommodation provided by a local authority
  • accommodation provided as part of their job (also known as 'tied accommodation')

The right to rent scheme doesn't apply to children. This means that a landlord may allow all those under the age of 18 to occupy a property.

The right to rent scheme also doesn't apply to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

How do you carry out a right to rent check?

You should follow these steps:

  1. Check that the tenants will use the rented property as their main or only home.
  2. Ask the tenants for original documents to prove that they can live in the UK. This may be a passport, driving licence or birth certificate. The Home Office has a
  3. Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date on which you made the check. You may need to carry out future checks, especially if the tenant has a limited time to remain in the UK.
  4. When making copies, make sure they are in a format that cannot be altered and store them in a secure and safe place.

For further information read How to do a check.

What happens if the tenant's right to rent has expired?

If the tenant's right to rent has expired or is about to expire, then the landlord should make a report on the government website. The report should contain:

  • the name of the tenant whose right to rent has expired or is about to expire
  • the address of the property they are renting
  • name and contact of the landlord
  • name and address of the letting agent (if relevant)
  • the date that the tenant first moved in and started renting

If the Home Office sends the landlord a Notice of Letting to a Disqualified Person or a further check shows that the tenant or lodger no longer has the right to rent, then the landlord must take reasonable steps to evict them. For further information read Ending a tenancy due to immigration status.

Are there penalties for not carrying out right to rent checks?

Under new rules, landlords or letting agents can be convicted of a criminal offence if they fail to carry out right to rent checks or fail to remove illegal migrants and those without a right to rent from their rented property.

Landlords or agents can be liable for fines of up to £3,000 per tenant without a right to rent, but also may face unlimited criminal fines and a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.

Read the Code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation to ensure you comply with the new rules on renting out property.

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