What's a right to rent check and how does it work?

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Woman holding a set of keys with a house keyring on it

If you’re a landlord letting property in England, or you sublet your property or take in lodgers, you’re legally required to check that all your adult tenants have the right to rent and live in the UK. 

It’s called carrying out a right to rent check – here’s what you need to know. 

What’s a right to rent check?

A right to rent check is used in England to verify the immigration status of anyone looking to rent a residential property. 

Introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014, right to rent checks are an effort to make sure landlords and letting agents only let property to people who have the legal right to live in the UK. 

As a landlord, before the start of a new tenancy, you must check that all tenants aged 18 and over have the right to rent, even if they’re not named on the tenancy agreement (or there isn’t one). 

Failure to carry out right to rent checks properly can result in fines for landlords, so it's really important to follow the guidelines and maintain proper records. 

Remember, the specific requirements and procedures for right to rent checks may change over time, so it's important to consult the latest guidance from the UK Government. It’s worth noting that right to rent checks only apply to those renting in England, not Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. 

How to check right to rent

There are a few ways you can conduct a right to rent check. 

Use a certified Digital Identity Service Provider (IDSP)

The Home Office recommends using a certified IDSP, but it isn’t mandatory. 

The logic is that by using an IDSP, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re meeting the relevant guidance and standards. 

It also means you’ll be letting your property more safely, using consistent and secure methods. Plus, it allows the whole process to be carried out remotely and online, so it could save you time and effort,

If you do choose to use an IDSP to carry out your right to rent checks, make sure you choose a reputable provider and retain your own copies of the checks. 

You can find a list of certified IDSPs on gov.uk.  

Manual right to rent check

The process is straightforward if you’d rather carry out a right to rent check yourself.

1. Get documents

Ask to see your prospective tenant’s original document or share code that proves their right to live in the UK. We discuss acceptable documents that can be used by landlords for right to rent checks below.

2. Check the detail

After getting the right document, check it over carefully to make sure it’s legitimate and acceptable. 

3. Keep records

When you’re confident you’ve checked the document that proves your tenant’s right to live in the UK, make a copy by scanning or photocopying it. Keep these copied documents on file and record the date of when you made the checks.

Do I need to contact the Home Office?

In most cases, right to rent checks can be carried out without the need to contact the Home Office. 

You should only need to contact them if:

  • You have concerns about the validity of your prospective tenant’s documents or suspect fraudulent activity.
  • Your prospective tenant says they have an ongoing application or appeal with the Home Office, or tells you the Home Office has given them special permission to rent in the UK. If this is the case, you can get a Home Office right to rent check form online and can expect a response usually within 48 hours.

Follow up checks

If your tenant’s visa or leave to remain ends within a year, you must do a follow up check after a year if they still live in your property. 

If their visa or leave to remain is for more than a year, make sure do a follow up check whenever their leave ends.

Right to rent check documents 

Prospective tenants can use one of a variety of documents to verify their right to rent and live in the UK. 

British or Irish citizens

  • British passport (current or expired)
  • Irish passport or passport card (current or expired)
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

Non-British or non-Irish citizens

Right to rent share code

Anyone with EU settle or pre-settled status in the UK tend to use: 

  • digital share codes 
  • biometric residence card
  • an eVisa

As the landlord, you can ask your tenant for their share code and enter it on gov.uk. It will tell you whether that person is eligible to rent in England and how long for. You’ll also need their date of birth. 

Original immigration documents

Those unable to get a share code can use their original immigration documents, complete with a Home Office endorsement, to prove their right to rent. 
Acceptable documents include:

  • passport
  • a travel document issued by the Home Office
  • an immigration status document sent to them when they were given permission to stay in the UK

Who has right to rent?

As you’ve probably gathered, right to rent is primarily determined by a person's immigration status. 

Generally, people with the following statuses have the right to rent:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • Indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
  • Refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • Settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme
  • Permission to be in the UK, for example, on a work or student visa
  • A time-limited right to rent granted by the Home Office

Immigration laws and regulations may change over time, so it's crucial to consult the latest guidance from the UK Government to understand who has the right to rent under current laws and regulations. 

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