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A Landlord’s Guide to Right to Rent Checks

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Investing in property can be an excellent way to make money in the long term, but it is rarely as simple as some people like to think. Not only is renting out your house not a ‘passive’ income (after all, there’s a lot of work involved!), but you will need to have a firm understanding of your legal responsibilities as a landlord. 

A significant part of this is carrying out the ‘Right to Rent’ checks on potential tenants.

Right to Rent is an essential policy in the UK that was introduced around ten years ago. It clearly defines who you are legally allowed to rent your property to, and we have provided more guidance on this in the section below.

So, if you are a landlord and want a clear guide on everything related to Right to Rent checks, you are in the right place. 

What are Right to Rent Checks?

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to carry out ‘Right to Rent Checks’ before you let out your property. This involves checking that your potential tenants are legally allowed to be in the country and are, therefore, eligible to rent your house from you. The UK government introduced this policy in 2015.

When to complete Right to Rent Checks?

You must carry out Right to Rent checks before the tenancy date begins. If the person fails the checks because they are in the country illegally, then you cannot offer them the tenancy.

When do I not need to carry out Right to Rent Checks?

If you are a landlord of any of the following types of accommodation, then the UK government website indicates that you do not need to carry out Right to Rent checks:

  • social housing
  • a care home, hospice or hospital
  • a hostel or refuge
  • a mobile home
  • student accommodation

You also do not need to check tenants if they live in accommodation provided by a local authority, is provided as part of their job (known as ‘tied accommodation’), or has a lease of 7 years or longer.

How to carry out Right to Rent Checks

There are two main ways to carry out Right to Rent checks. For the first option, you can ask them to provide proof that they are legally allowed to live in the country. This might include them showing you proof of a passport or immigration documents. You will then need to confirm that these documents are legitimate and keep the copies.

The second option is to check with a ‘share code’. This involves the tenant giving you their share code, which they receive when they are granted the right to live in this country. You can then enter the government website to confirm your eligibility. 

Guides for Right to Rent Checks

The UK Home Office provides a checking guide that supports you through the process of Right to Rent. 

Can someone else complete the Right to Rent Checks for me?

Yes, they can. Any agents that manage or let your property can complete the checks for you. It is important to have this agreement in writing, though, as it gives you protection.

If you are using a letting agency, then Right to Rent checks are often a major part of their convenient service.

How often do I need to carry out Right to Rent Checks?

If your tenant has a time limit on when they are allowed to stay in the country, you should do a follow-up check before this expires. If you fail to follow up, you can be fined.

If your tenant does not have a time limit on their stay in the UK, then you do not need to do a follow-up check.

If you complete a follow-up check and find out that your tenant can no longer legally rent property in England, you must tell the Home Office.

What happens if a Landlord doesn’t comply with the Right to Rent Checks?

If you rent out your property without complying with the Right to Rent Checks, you can be fined up to £3,000 per offence and may also risk imprisonment.

If you have knowingly provided a house to someone who is illegally in the country and you have failed to report this to the authorities, the punishment could potentially be much more severe. According to Stuart Miller Solicitors, it could sometimes stretch up to 14 years imprisonment.

What happens if a Landlord finds out that their existing tenant is illegal?

You are required to tell the Home Office if you find out that your tenant is illegally in the country. Failure to do so can result in you being fined. 

The same applies if a Landlord buys a tenanted property with sitting tenants who are illegal. 

Who carries out Right to Rent Checks if my Tenant is Subletting?

When a tenant wants to sublet your property, and you agree to it, they must carry out Right to Rent checks. If they fail to complete their duties, they are liable for any penalties. 

How to make copies of the Right to Rent Documents

When your tenants show you the Right to Rent documents, you will need to make copies. 

It is important to make a copy that cannot be changed—for example, a high-resolution photograph or a photocopy. 

If your tenant has provided a passport as proof, you should copy every page that features their expiry date/personal details. 

You should also record the date you made the copy and keep them in your possession for up to one year after they are no longer your tenants. 

Is it risky to leave my property to someone who has just entered the country?

There should not be anything intrinsically more risky about letting your property to someone who has only recently come to the country. If they have all the required paperwork and are here legally, then they are just like any other tenant. 

From here, you will usually judge them on the same basis as anyone else: looking at their salary and savings to determine whether they are a ‘safe bet’ to meet all their payments.

Sometimes, landlords hesitate to let their property go to someone with an expiration date on when they can stay in the country. This is because it potentially guarantees that your tenant will have to move out—and you will have to find a new one—in the foreseeable future. For this reason, some landlords prefer to let someone who can stay here indefinitely, as it may reduce their hassle in the long term.

Why were Right to Rent Checks introduced?

Right to Rent guarantees that your tenants are legally in the country. This process prevents any laws from being broken and ensures that your tenant is a legal recipient of your property. This was first introduced in 2015 as part of the UK government’s crackdown on illegal immigration. 

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