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Right to Rent

What is the right to rent?

People who are allowed to be in the UK have a right to rent. People who are not allowed to be here do not have a right to rent.

Who should make right to rent checks?

‘Right to rent’ checks should be made by landlords, agents or householders who are letting private rented accommodation or taking in a lodger. Anyone who lives in a property as a tenant or occupier, and sub-lets all or part of the property, or takes in a lodger, should also make the checks. This applies to people living in both private and social housing.

What is a right to rent check?

This is the check a landlord, agent or householder renting out property should make to ensure that the prospective tenants or occupants have a right to rent. If the check is not made and the occupier has no right to rent there may be a civil penalty to pay.

Can an agent be appointed?

Landlords or householders may appoint an agent to carry out checks on their behalf but should keep a written agreement which should also make clear if the agent is to be responsible for any follow-up checks and reports necessary. Landlords and householders are advised to agree the timescales the agent should follow when making the checks and the form that the agent should use to communicate these (written or verbal). Liability for the checks cannot be transferred beyond the agent.

Who should be checked?

Landlords, agents and householders should check that all adults who will live in the property have a right to rent in the UK. This includes everyone over the age of 18, regardless of their nationality, who will use the property as their only or main home, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement and regardless of whether the tenancy agreement is written, oral or implied.

What should be included in tenancy agreements?

There is no requirement to create a written tenancy agreement listing all those who will live in the property, but landlords, agents and householders may find it advisable to do so. If the tenancy agreement is oral or implied, the checks should still be made on all adults living at the property. If there is evidence a landlord, agent or householder was aware of a person living in the property but did not check them, they may be liable to a civil penalty, regardless of whether the agreement is written, oral or implied.

It is advisable to record the following:

  • The full name and date of birth of all adults who will live in the property

  • The names and dates of birth of all children under 18 who will be living with them in the property

  • Whether each of the adults named has current permission to be in the UK

How are initial right to rent checks conducted?

A landlord, agent or householder should obtain and check an adult's original acceptable documents before allowing them to live in the property. The landlord, agent or householder should make a dated paper or electronic copy of the document and retain it securely for the duration of the tenancy and for twelve months after the tenancy ends. The copies should then be securely disposed of.

Reasonable enquiries to find out who will live in the property as their only or main home should be made, and a record kept of the questions asked. All adults who will live in the property, whether or not they are named on the tenancy agreement, should be checked. A landlord, agent or householder who does not make reasonable enquiries may be liable for a civil penalty for any other adult occupiers, irrespective of whether or not they are named on the tenancy agreement and even if rent is only collected from the named tenant. Where reasonable enquiries are made and an occupier moves someone in without the knowledge of the landlord, that occupier will become the landlord responsible for making the checks and liable for any penalty.

If an agent establishes that a person does not have the right to rent they should report the matter to the landlord prior to a tenancy being granted. The landlord will then become the person liable to a penalty if a residential tenancy agreement which authorises occupation by a person who does not have a right to rent is granted. In these instances, an agent should keep written records and copies of their actions.

What are the reasonable steps to verify a document?

Once a landlord, agent or householder has obtained an original document, it should be checked in the presence of the holder (in person or via live video link) to verify that the document is genuine and the person presenting it is the rightful holder.

A landlord, agent or householder is not expected to be an immigration expert or to have a detailed knowledge of immigration documents or visas. It is recognised that forged documents are difficult to detect and that those who use them are setting out to deceive

Anyone who is given a false document will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent it is false

Obvious causes for suspicion include:

  • photographs that do not look like the holder

  • a date of birth that is clearly implausible

  • documents that are damaged, tattered, or show signs of wear, to the extent that no

  • a reasonable person could have confidence they have not been altered

  • indications of an attempt to change photographs, expiry dates or personal information on a document

In all cases, a landlord, agent or householder should undertake basic visual checks to ensure the document or documents relate to the person in front of them by:

  • comparing any photographs in the documents, and comparing dates of birth against

  • the appearance and apparent age of the holder

  • checking names, photographs and dates of birth are the same on each document

If a person presents two documents which are in different names, the landlord, agent or the householder should ask for a further document to explain the reason, for example, a marriage certificate, a divorce decree or a deed poll document.

It is not possible to give comprehensive details of all travel and identity documents but there are some features in many documents that any person can look for and which may give confidence that the document is likely to be genuine. Most international travel documents contain security features such as holographic images, watermarks and images that fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Laminates are used to make it difficult to change information printed on the documents and high quality and expensive printing processes are used. Anyone checking a document should take time to look at the document properly by feeling it, tilting and turning it to see how it reacts, consider whether the printing is blurred, and that forged documents may be deliberately battered and dog-eared to provide an explanation for their poor quality.

Where there are obvious grounds to suspect that a document is false and a landlord, agent or householder believes there may have been attempted deception, the landlord, agent or householder should not let the property to the person presenting the document.

Landlords, agents or householders will not be able to rely on a statutory excuse if they knew the documents were false or did not rightfully belong to the holder.

Who is liable for a civil penalty?

If a landlord, agent or householder does not make the correct right to rent checks and is found to have let the property to someone who does not have a right to rent, they will become liable for a civil penalty.