The UK’s Right to Rent rules are getting stricter

Senior Vice President – Client Services

The UK rental market can be a weird experience for would be renters arriving from overseas.  There are many landmines to negotiate, and a major one is in the shape of the so-called Right to Rent law.

Let’s start by looking at why the right to rent check was introduced

Back in February 2016, the right to rent check was introduced under the Immigration Act 2014 as part of the government’s plan to create a tougher immigration system.

The new rules were put in place to deter those who remain in the UK but are illegally resident.  It was intended that those renters with a legitimate right to live in the UK would be able to prove this easily and not be affected.  It is important for renters to understand what they will need to pass a check.

In effect, this initiative turned landlords and their agents into another layer of border control officers, unofficial and unpaid ones, of course.

What is a UK Right to Rent check?

It requires all adult renters to prove to their landlord that they are in the UK legally before they can be granted the right to rent a UK home.

Renters must show their identity documents in person to a landlord or landlord’s agent.  It’s like the checking process at the border where you present your passport (and visa) to a border control officer at an immigration checkpoint – only at this point it is a further check at the “border” to your new home in London or elsewhere in the UK.

A copy of the documents will be taken enabling the landlord/agent to prove they’ve carried out a proper check – see below for further details.

If a tenant has a time limited right to rent (e.g., a visa or Biometric Residency Permit with an expiry date) then the check must be done in the 28 days before the start date of the tenancy and the visa must be valid for the intended tenancy start date.

The landlord/agent must:

  • Check all adult tenants who will live in the property as their only or main home
  • Ask tenants for the original documents that prove they have the right to be in the UK.
  • Check the original documents with the tenant physically present and ensure they are valid
  • Make copies of the original documents and record when the check was completed
  • Conduct follow up checks at the appropriate time (e.g., repeat the check when a tenant's visa expires)

The valid documents for a tenant from the EEA or a Swiss national are

    • A passport
    • EEA/Swiss national ID card
    • Valid UK driving licence and original UK birth certificate (for British citizens only)

And for other nationalities:

    • a passport, valid visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

If follow up checks reveal that an occupant in a rental property no longer has a valid ‘Right to Rent', then the landlord/agent must report that person to the Home Office.

If I don't have my documents what will happen?

You will be denied access to the rental property until you can pass the Right to Rent check.

Changes due to Covid 19 (that came into effect March 2020)

Due to the pandemic, the government was forced to make the process safer by allowing all right to rent checks to take place online so they wouldn’t have to be done in person.  The right to rent checks were allowed to take place over video calls, with tenants scanning documents or using photos that were sent by email or app.

This new mode of checking led to positive feedback because it was simpler and more convenient for everyone.  In response, the government delayed the date for introducing a stricter regime.

What changes applied from April 2022?

A landlord/agent are not allowed to carry out a physical check on a tenant who has a Biometric Residence Card / Permit.  All checks must be done using the Home Office online service only, so the tenant must provide a Share Code.  The landlord/agent needs the tenant’s date of birth for the check.

Landlords can use a new digital check service provided by an Identity Service Provider (IDSP).  The service has been available from 6 April 2022, but it is not yet a legal requirement.  However, in person / manual checks must remain available for those tenants who do not want to have their identity checked in any other way.

What changes are expected in September 2022 & how will they be done differently?

The temporary changes introduced during the pandemic come to an end on 30 September 2022.  A landlord/agent will need to return to checking the documents in person / manually.  Alternatively, they will be able to use a certified digital identity service provider, who will undertake the check digitally, but there will be a fee to pay.

There are tough sanctions for anyone who knowingly rents to an individual without the right to rent. Landlords and letting agents take these checks very seriously indeed.

For clients of Saunders 1865, we guide relocatees every step of the way through their right to rent checks

If you have an upcoming relocation and need any help or have any questions, do get in touch by completing our contact page or via whatsapp