Right to Rent Immigration Checks

Understanding the law

Right to rent immigration checks have been rolled-out across England for all tenancies starting on or after 1 February 2016. These new rules have been brought in under the Immigration Act 2014.

According to the Home Office, you will need to carry out right to rent checks if you:

  • are a private landlord;
  • have a lodger;
  • are sub-letting a property; or
  • are an agent appointed by a landlord to make right to rent checks.

So even homeowners taking in a lodger under the government’s rent a room scheme will be caught up be these new requirements. Let’s hope they realise!

Who do the immigration checks apply to?

Before the start of a new tenancy, the landlord must make checks on all adults aged 18 and over who intend to live in the property as their only or main home, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement, or the tenancy agreement is not in writing.

Children and young people under 18 on the date the tenancy starts will not require right to rent checks.

What documents need to be seen?

Private landlords must see original documents to show that each adult who will live in the property has the right to be in the UK.

The Home Office have split documents down into three groups:

List A (Group 1) includes documents such as a UK Passport or EEA/Swiss national passport/identity card. Any one document from this list shows an unlimited right to rent.

List A (Group 2) includes documents such as a UK birth or adoption certificate or a full or provisional UK photocard driving licence. Any two documents from this list show an unlimited right to rent.

List B includes documents such as a valid passport endorsed with a time-limited period or a Non-EEA national residence card. These documents show a time-limited right to rent.

Further information including a full list of all the documents can be found in the Home Office Right to Rent Document Checks: a User Guide

According to the Home Office, the landlord must check the original documents with the tenant present. They must check that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant.

Landlords need to check that the photos on the documents are of the tenant, that the date of birth is the same in all documents, that there are no obvious signs that the documents have been tampered with and if any names shown on documents are different, they must be satisfied that there is supporting documents to show the reason why, such as a marriage certificate. 

The landlord must take a copy of each document and record the date that the check was carried out. This is not as straight forward as at first appears. For example, Home Office guidance says that the copy must be recorded in a format that cannot be changed. For passports, it says you must copy every page containing the expiry date or applicants details, including all endorsements such as a work visa of certificate of entitlement to live in the UK.   

For tenants with an outstanding immigration application or appeal, or if the Home Office has the tenant’s documents, the landlord can use the Home Office landlord’s checking service to request a Home Office right to rent check. It says an answer will normally be provided within 2 working days. Help is also available from the Home Office Landlords helpline on Tel 0300 069 9799, Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4.45pm and Friday, 9am to 4.30pm 

The landlord must retain copies of all the documentation for the duration of the tenancy plus one year after the tenancy has ended.

What happens if the tenant's right to live here is time-limited?

The landlord must carry out a further right to rent check just before the expiry date of their tenant’s right to stay in the UK, or 12 months after the previous check was carried out.
  
Can I get my letting agent to carry out the checks?

If you want your letting agent to carry out and take responsibility for right to rent checks and for recording all the documents, you should make sure this is agreed in writing. Otherwise, if something goes wrong, responsibility is likely to rest with the landlord.
   
What are the penalties?

Landlords who don’t carry out the necessary checks can be fined up to £3,000 if they rent out a property to someone who’s in the UK illegally.

For a first offence, the civil penalty for lodgers in a private house is £80 and tenants in rented accommodation is £1,000. For repeat offences, the amounts increase to £500 and £3,000 respectively.

From December 2016, we understand that penalties will be increased up to an unlimited fine and/or a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

More information about the new arrangements for conducting right to rent checks is available here

You should also study the Home Office Code of Practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation, available here.

This is only intended as general advice and no liability can be accepted for any reliance upon the information provided. We would strongly encourage you study the Home Office guidance and seek independent legal advice in you are unsure about the action you need to take. 

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