Just like there are checks for any formal process in the UK, there are right to rent checks in the UK that dictate if a tenant is able to rent a property in the UK. This makes sure only the people who have the right to be in the country are able to rent.
In this article, we go over what these regulations are, if there are any exemptions to be aware of and exactly how these right to rent checks are carried out so you can hand the tenant a how to rent guide and begin collecting payments.
What is a right to rent check?
When attempting to explain what a right to rent check is, you must understand that it is a legal requirement that went into effect in England in February 2016 no matter if the rent is for the short term or the long term or even if the property is furnished.
It means that anyone looking to rent out a residential home must go through this process to ensure they have the legal right to be in the country.
Currently, the landlord of the property is now responsible for carrying out these checks, but if you prefer, you can have a lettings agent handle it for you who will work on behalf of you, as a landlord.
It’s important to note that this process applies to all tenants, not just those from other countries who maybe would be more questionable. People who are allowed to be in the country have the right to rent, but those who are not allowed, do not. But this still must be checked.
As a result, in the eyes of the law, this is what determines whether or not someone can rent a property. It is critical, however, that these checks are not discriminatory in any way.
Who in the UK has the right to rent?
In the UK, there are a few scenarios which give you the right to rent and if you don’t qualify for any of these you will have a tough time gaining residency.
- You are a british citizen
- You have the right to remain in the country
- You have refugee status
- You have settled in the EU
- You have a visa that gives you permission to stay in the UK
- You have the right to remain from the home office
When should you do a right to rent check?
You should do a right to rent check as you have an interested tenant in the property. This means doing the check before you carry out any more extensive checks on the tenant such as tenant referencing.
What is the right way to do a right to rent check?
First, arrange a face-to-face or online meeting with anyone who will potentially be using the property as their primary residence, and request original documents such as a passport or ID which should be done no later than 28 days before the start of the tenancy.
If you are trying to find out if someone has the right to rent by finding if they have a “main home”. Find out by considering if they live there the majority of the time or keep the majority of their belongings there..
As well as this, find out if they are registered to vote there, are registered with a doctor there, and have a partner or children living with them.
When you have the documents in front of you, double-check that the details match and that the document has not been tampered with when you go ahead with verifying them for a right to rent check.
Also, take a quick photo or make a copy of all relevant pages for your records, and keep these for at least a year after the tenancy ends in case there are any legal issues regarding the tenant in the future.
If one of your tenants is subletting the property, make a written agreement outlining who will be responsible for performing the Right to Rent checks as then this responsibility is delegated to a tenant and they must understand this side of the law too.
What are a landlord’s responsibilities?
It is the landlord’s responsibility to conduct the right to rent checks in a property as this is the person responsible for managing the tenancy.
They may pass this task on to someone working on behalf of them such as a letting agent or property manager but this is up to the individual.
What documents should a landlord request?
If you are renting out your property to someone from the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you should request a valid passport, an EEA/Swiss national ID card or a valid UK driving licence. As well as this, an original UK birth certificate if they are british.
Other nationalities will require a combination of a passport, a valid visa, or a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) in order to make sure they have the right to rent.
If you are unsure which documents are acceptable, you can consult a list of acceptable documents based on the tenant’s nationality and you may also find out more about this using the government website here.
In most cases, the Right to Rent check is fairly simple and if your tenant is from another country, you must ensure that their right to remain in the country has not expired.
You’ll need to check with the Home Office if they can’t provide proof of this or if they have an outstanding case of appeal.
What are the other types of right to rent checks?
There are other ways to determine if a tenant has the right to rent in the UK and you and look at the below information in order to find this out.
Use Identity Service Providers (IDSPs)
You can use a Certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP) to perform digital Right to Rent checks on British and Irish citizens who have a valid passport and this includes Irish passport cards.
Use the home office share code system
If you are an overseas national with a Home Office immigration status, you only need to provide a share code and date of birth to a letting agent.
They can then use this information to query the Home Office’s real-time system and generate a Right to Rent decision for you without the need for any additional documentation.
Can you still use a video check for the right to rent?
Because of the recent pandemic, agents and landlords were permitted to conduct ‘adjusted checks’ via video calls from March 2020 to September 2022. It is important to note, however, that any checks conducted outside of this time frame using video calls will not meet compliance standards.
How does right to rent work for overseas tenants
Renting out a property to tenants from other countries can be a daunting experience for landlords, especially since the UK implemented the Right to Rent scheme and made it a landlord’s legal responsibility to check if your tenants are legally allowed to stay in the UK.
However, the process does not have to be difficult and to make the process easier, ask your tenant to send you their ID and proof of immigration status via text message or upload or use a property management software like lofti which you can sign up to below. Then a tenant will be good to rent.
Sometimes, when a tenant is overseas, you will also need to have a guarantor that is able to cover the rent as this is seen as a riskier tenant who isn’t able to prove their rental income as easily.
What if a tenancy is disqualified?
It can be stressful for everyone involved if the Home Office sends a notice to your landlord that someone at the property is not allowed to rent due to their immigration status.
However, landlords are required by law to take action to resolve the problem as they must either serve an eviction notice or take reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy and give the tenant at least 28 days’ notice.
If the property has both legal and disqualified tenants, the landlord must give the disqualified tenants notice to leave within 28 days and the remaining legal tenants can then assign their tenancy to one or more adult occupants with the legal Right to Rent.
Landlords can ensure compliance with the law and protect their rental property by following these steps and it is important to understand that this is just part of being a landlord as dismissing tenants is a common thing. Sometimes because of poor credit but in this case, because they do not have the right to rent.
How do Right to Rent checks affect subletting?
If you sublet a property, it is critical to understand that you are responsible for conducting a Right to Rent check on any occupier before they move in and this is no longer the landlord’s responsibility if you are subletting as a tenant.
This check must be performed, and proof of it must be kept in the same way a landlord would have to do it otherwise, you may face enforcement action or fines as a tenant and if you haven’t made this clear to a tenant, the landlord may be responsible too.
What are the exemptions from right to rent checks?
If you are concerned about the right to rent, there may be some exemptions. First of all, if you live in exempt property such as student halls, educational institution-owned housing, or charitable housing that you have been nominated to occupy.
Secondly, if you’re under the age of 18 when you sign the tenancy agreement; you’ll be exempt until the landlord’s next set of checks is due, even if you turn 18 during that time.
Also, exemptions apply if you are not using the property as your primary or sole residence in the United Kingdom or the landlord is a member of your immediate family, such as a parent.
Finally, if you are a guest in the property, it is not your primary or only residence, the property is vacation lodging and you will only be staying for a short time. Then you are also exempt.
It is important to remember the legality of the Right to Rent check as there are fines and punishments for anyone who doesn’t abide by the rules.
So, read the article again clearly if anything doesn’t make sense and also be sure if you are exempt before you waste your time.
Also, the private rented sector is a complicated topic in general so it is vital you ask the right questions including how to deal with things like rent arrears.
It could be the case that if you are a landlord and find the management of the tenant is exactly what you want to do and you could make more money elsewhere by taking over other people’s property such as doing rent to rent.