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Rental Law: The Right to Rent Check

In February 2016, a new rental law was introduced in England, stating that all landlords renting out properties in England must ensure that their prospective tenant(s) have the Right to Rent. The Right to Rent check has become one of many landlord responsibilities that must be carried out in order for them to allow a tenant to rent their property - you can find out more about necessary responsibilities and documents in our article here.

What is the Right to Rent?

To put it simply, someone has the Right to Rent if they are allowed to be in the UK. Landlords and agencies must carry our a Right to Rent check on any tenant who is 18 or over, even if there isn’t a tenancy agreement, it isn’t in writing or the tenant isn’t named on it. Children don’t need to be checked. Those living with a lodger must also check their Right to Rent.

Please note: all adult tenants must be checked, not just those you don’t think are British.

Carrying out the Right to Rent check

The Right to Rent check must be carried out before the tenancy begins - this is one of your landlord responsibilities. If the tenant is only able to reside in the UK for a limited amount of time, the check must be carried out 28 days before the tenancy starts.

Please note: the right to rent check does not apply to tenancies that began before the scheme began. This means:

  • Any tenancies in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton that began before 1st December 2014
  • Any tenancies in the rest of England that began before 1st February 2016

The most commonly used accepted documents are:

  • A valid or expired passport showing the tenant is a UK national.
  • A valid or expired Identity card or passport that shows the tenant is a citizen of the European Economic Area or Switzerland - If Brexit comes to fruition, EU/Swiss nationals will be able to continue to prove their Right to Rent in England in the same way they currently do, regardless of the deal.
  • Passports/documents showing unlimited leave
  • Certificate showing the tenant has become a UK citizen

The comprehensive list can be found on gov.uk’s guide here

Once you have the required document, ensure that it does indeed belong to the tenant, that the photo is of the tenant, the dates of birth match and that their permission to stay is still ongoing. You should also make copies of the documents; you can keep these for the duration of the tenancy and then for 12 months following the end of the tenancy agreement.

What are the consequences of renting to someone without the Right to Rent?

As stated earlier, according to rental law, carrying out Right to Rent checks is one of many landlord responsibilities. If an agency, landlord or householder taking in a lodger doesn’t correctly check a tenant’s right to rent and lets a property to a tenant without the right to rent, they may be liable for a civil penalty.

If the person responsible for the tenancy (e.g. the landlord) can’t provide proof that they carried out all necessary check during an official visit, they will receive a Referral Notice and an Information Request, which can be objected within 28 days of the due date. If the objection isn’t accepted, they can then be fined up to £3000.

To find out more about the Right to Rent scheme, head to the gov.uk website.

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