What landlords must know about ‘Right to Rent’ checks
The law imposes a number of obligations on landlords. Two of these are:
- You must not rent to someone who is under 18;
- You must not rent to someone who is not entitled to live in the UK.
Anyone who does not meet both of those requirements has no right to rent in the UK. The penalties for landlords who let to someone with no right to rent can be quite severe, and include both fines and imprisonment. The law applies whether or not there is a written tenancy agreement – you are subject to these obligations where the tenancy agreement is verbal. Indeed, you must still obey the law, even if there is no tenancy agreement at all.
What do I, the landlord, need to do?
You need to check that the tenant has a right to rent – that the tenant is at least 18 years of age and is either a UK citizen or has a right to remain in the UK. When that right to remain ends, so does the right to rent.
A check means a check of documents. Do not simply ask the question. You will not avoid fines or imprisonment simply because you asked the tenant if they are a British citizen. You must also not assume that the person is or is not British, as that amounts to discrimination. Always take a copy of all documents and keep them on file.
A passport will tell you how old the passport holder is, and it will also tell you their immigration status. If the passport holder is not a British citizen, then take careful note of when the right to remain ends and when the passport expires. You will need to carry out new checks not more than 28 days before those dates. You will also need to re-check no more than 12 months after each check, just to make sure that the right to remain (and the right to rent) has not altered.
If the tenant is not a British or Irish citizen, is living here, and does not have a passport, then you should assume until it is proved otherwise that there is no right to rent. In the case of a British or Irish citizen who cannot produce a passport for whatever reason, two or more original documents must be produced (such as a birth certificate and full driving licence), and you must see it and make a copy of it.
Checking a tenant’s right to rent is tedious, even if you live close to the property. But the penalties for failing to check right to rent would give anyone pause.