As of February 2016, landlords and agents have a regulatory obligation to verify that prospective tenants have the legal right to rent in the UK. These checks were introduced following The Immigration Act 2014, the key text underpinning legislative efforts to clamp down on illegal immigrants.
Who needs to complete a Right to Rent check?
It is necessary to check all prospective renters aged 18 and over. This remains the case even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement, or if the tenancy agreement is not in writing. The checks apply equally to British and non-British applicants.
Who has the Right to Rent?
There are two categories for people in the UK:
Those with a statutory right (i.e unlimited) to rent are British citizens, EU/EEA nationals, Swiss nationals, or those who have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK (occasionally this might appear on a visa as no time limit).
Individuals with a time-limited right to rent are people who are not British, EU/EEA, or Swiss nationals who have been granted valid leave to remain in the UK for a limited time (on a work visa, for example), or who are entitled to remain as a result of Acts of Parliament, European Union Treaties, and Immigration regulations.
If the prospective tenant is a Commonwealth citizen but does not have the correct documents, then check with the Home Office – it is possible that they still have a statutory right to rent in the UK. See here for further guidance when renting to Windrush immigrants.
When do RtR checks take place?
Checks must be conducted within 28 days of the start of the new tenancy. If you have a time-limited right to rent, additional checks must be performed either when it is due to expire or after 12 months following the initial inspection (whichever comes later). At Home Made, we conduct in-person checks with tenants at our central London office (though we facilitate checks for Brentford movers and all full developments that we cover) as soon as possible after an offer is agreed.
What is Home Made's process?
In order to perform the necessary checks, we must obtain original documents from each prospective adult tenant, validate the authenticity of the document in the presence of the holder, make copies which clearly state the date on which checks were made, and retain the copies for 12 months following the end of the tenancy.
Which documents does the renter need to provide?
In most cases checking the prospective tenant’s passport will suffice. All UK and EU/EEA passport holders hold a statutory right to rent, and many of those with a time-limited version will have their visa stamped or glued into their passport. However, there is an overwhelming number of documents (and potential combinations thereof) that can be offered by prospective tenants to verify their right to rent. This list includes everything from birth certificates to letters issued by the UK police force confirming that the holder is the victim of a crime. A printable checklist of valid documents can be found here.
It might sound serious, but it is a routine inspection that shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes. However, a civil penalty will be issued to the landlord or agent if obviously false documents have been accepted (grounds for suspicion would be implausible dates of birth, photographs that bear no resemblance to the holder). For that reason, we have a duty to make sure all documents are verified according to the government's prescribed process.