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Right to Rent explained

Published: 15/09/2020

What is Right to Rent?

It is a scheme that checks a renter’s eligibility to legally live in England and as a consequence, landlords or letting agents are required to carry out these checks before the tenant can move into a property. It was introduced by The Home Office with the aim of making the UK an inhospitable environment for people trying to live in this country illegally.

However, these rules do not currently apply if you are renting in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

The Process

Your landlord or their letting agent must:

  • Check an original from a list of acceptable identification documents, to make sure you have the legal right to live in England.
  • Check the documents of all adult occupiers aged 18 or older, even if their name isn't on the tenancy agreement.
  • Make copies of the documents and keep them for at least one year after the tenancy finishes.
  • Make follow-up checks where identification is time-limited e.g. a student visa
  • Return original documents when the check has been completed.

Acceptable documents include:

  • A UK/EU passport 
  • A permanent residence card 
  • A travel document showing indefinite leave to remain
A comprehensive list of documents can be found here

All the checks have to be in person and done within twenty-eight days of the tenancy commencing.

What about Sub-Letting?

If you are sub-letting a property or a room, you still have to make Right to Rent checks prior to the person moving in. In this case, the tenant who sublets becomes the landlord and is therefore responsible for any fines or enforcement actions. You can request that your landlord carries out these checks but this must be agreed in writing.

What about tenants from overseas?

If the tenant is moving to the UK from overseas, the landlord can arrange a "tenancy in principle". In this case, ID is required upon arrival, but if the necessary documents can't be provided, the tenant won't be allowed to rent the property.

If there is an ongoing application with the Home Office, or if they are holding your documents due to an outstanding case or appeal, your landlord or letting agent can request that they carry out a Right to Rent check via an online form or by calling the Landlords Helpline on 0300 069 9799 quoting your Home Office Reference number.

What are the repercussions if a check isn't carried out?

There are none for the tenant, but if the landlord or letting agents fails to carry out the checks, they can be fined an unlimited amount of money or face up to five years in prison.  

Having a right to rent

Right to Rent is a key part of the renting process; it is necessary to comply with the regulations to move into property no matter where you are from. So long as you have the required documents, it should be a straightforward process.

For more information, please take a look at the Government’s short guide on the Right to Rent.

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