What is a Right to Rent check?

It’s a legal requirement for landlords before the start of a tenancy. The Right to Rent check shows that a tenant or lodger has the right to rent a property in England.

Basically (in the eyes of the law) people who are allowed to be in the country have a right to rent, and anyone without permission to be here doesn’t have a right to rent. However, the checks should not be discriminatory – indeed, all tenants must be checked, not just those from overseas.

In other words, Right to Rent is something landlords in the London property market need to know about. Although the responsibility falls on your shoulders (as a landlord), lettings agents can carry out the checks on your behalf to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

The Right to Rent check has been a legal requirement since February 2016 when it was rolled out across England.

How to do a Right to Rent check

Before handing over the keys and sealing the deal, here’s what you need to do as a landlord. Arrange a time to meet in person with anyone who will be using the property as their main home and ask them for original documents such as a passport or ID. This should be done no sooner than 28 days before the start of the letting.

In case you’re wondering, the property is their ‘main home’ if it ticks these boxes:

You’ll need to check that the usual details (photograph, name and address) match and that the document hasn’t been tampered with. Then you should make a copy or take a quick photograph of all relevant pages for your records and hang on to these for at least 12 months after the end of the tenancy.

If one of your tenants is subletting the property, then it’s best to agree in writing who is responsible for Right to Rent checks.

Oh, and a quick reminder about Data Protection: As a landlord, you need to keep documents in a safe place and inform tenants of how you intend to use their information.

Valid documents (depending on nationality)

If your tenant is from the EEA or a Swiss citizen then here’s what you should ask for:

For other nationalities, you’ll need a combination of a passport, a valid visa or a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If in doubt, here’s a list of accepted documents depending on the tenant’s nationality.

In most instances, the Right to Rent check is straightforward. However, if your tenant is from overseas then make sure that their right to stay in the country hasn’t ended. If they can’t prove this or they have an outstanding case of appeal, you’ll need to check with the Home Office.

Landlord responsibilities

There are a few legal responsibilities involved in checking a tenant’s right to rent – none of them are fun, but all of them are essential.

Along with the initial check, you also need to carry out a follow-up check if your tenant’s permission to stay ends at any point. You should do this 12 months after your initial check or whenever their permission to stay expires.

If they fail the follow-up check, then it’s your responsibility to tell the Home Office, otherwise you could be hit a fine or even imprisonment for up to five years.

Exemptions from Right to Rent

Children under the age of 18 don’t need to be checked. There’s also special guidance in place for Right to Rent checks on long-term non-EEA nationals and Windrush generation, who often have a legal right to live in the UK but may be unable to prove it. Again, use the Landlord Checking Service if you’re unsure.

Final thoughts

The Right to Rent check is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility, although this task can be passed on to an estate agent. As lettings agents in East London, Keatons often manage properties on behalf of landlords and carry out all checks and follow-ups. If you have a question about Right to Rent, or if you’re a landlord in East London looking for a lettings agent to steer the process, please email info@keatons.com and we’ll be happy to help.

See our full list of property advice articles in our Knowledge Centre.

About Keatons

Keatons has been based in East London for over 20 years and has since expanded to the north and south of the city. We have an outstanding Trust Pilot rating from customers and we are known for helping sellers and landlords achieve the best possible market price for their property. To find out more, visit www.keatons.com.

How much is your home worth?

Let's crunch the numbers