From 1st February 2016 all new tenants in England must be given Right-to-Rent (Immigration) Checks to determine their “right-to-rent” or “right-to-reside” in the country, BEFORE they can be given a tenancy. Landlords or letting agents must do the checks – letting agents where the landlord has an appropriate written agreement with the agent. To avoid discrimination and being in breach of the Equality Act 2010, EVERYONE must be processed in the same way.

The responsibility for doing this and the penalty for not complying (up to £3,000 per tenant) lies with the landlord. If the landlord decides to delegate the responsibility to a letting agent, then they need a written agreement in place with the agent first. The same goes where tenants are to sub-let with a landlord’s permission. The agreement must make it clear the agent or tenant is taking full responsibility for completing the immigration checks.

In most cases the checks will be simple and straightforward, involving face-to-face verification of a passport or similar document and taking and dating a good copy. This copy will then normally be verified against other information when credit checks and referencing are carried out.

The requirements may pose difficulties for landlords with tenants coming from abroad and also for some online only letting agents. This is because original documents (not copies) must be checked face-to-face, though this may be done using a live video link such as Skype or Facetime. Therefore, if tenants are to secure a place before travelling from abroad, in will be necessary to send original documents on ahead to be verified via a link.

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One option for tenants coming from abroad is to request emailed copies of documents in the first instance (saves trusting original documents to the post) where checks can be carried out, but original documents MUST be checked face-to-face BEFORE a tenant enters into (signs) a tenancy agreement (contract).

The Immigration Act 2014 says ALL residential tenancies, including lodgers in landlords’ homes and even tenants who sub-let, must comply. There are few exemptions: social housing, student halls of residence, holiday lets are examples. There are stiff penalties for non-compliance: up to a £3000 fine for each occupier.

All adults (over 18 years of age) must NOT be allowed to occupy a residential rental property as their only or main residence unless they have a right to reside in the UK. If they have a time limited right to reside, or they will become 18 during the course of a tenancy, landlords have an obligation to check and re-check the tenant/s at the appropriate time.

There are two kinds of right-to-rent: (1) Permanent and (2) Time Limited

(1)    Permanent Right-to-Rent means those people having a right to reside in the UK including those granted indefinite leave to remain and have no time limit on their stay. These include British citizens; European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.), and Swiss nationals.

(2)    Time Limited Right-to-Rent means those people who are not British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals given leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period of time. Time limited tenants or those under 18 when a tenancy starts will need to be checked or rechecked within 28 days of their right-t-reside expiring. Landlords will need to diarise these critical dates and follow-up.

The 4-Step Right-to-Rent Checking Process – landlords need to:

(1)    Obtain original (acceptable) documents for all adults who will occupy as their main residence.

(2)    Check the documents face-to-face with each document holder and establish identity.

(3)    Make copies of these documents and retain for 12 months after the tenancy, marking the copies with the date the checks were made.

(4)    Not compulsory but we recommend you take a passport type photo of all adults who will occupy

Use the handy “Right to Rent Declaration Form” supplied in out Documents section – look under the “Moving-In” heading – www.landlordzone.co.uk/documents

What are acceptable documents?

There are many different types of acceptable documents but in most cases a Passport (from whatever country) will be sufficient. For those without a passport and there are many in the UK without one, there are many other acceptable documents which come under three headings:

One – Permanent Right to Reside – any ONE of these documents will be sufficient:

  • A passport (current or expired) showing that the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.
  • A passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
  • A registration certificate or document (current or expired) certifying or indicating permanent residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of a European Union, European Economic Area country or Switzerland.
  • A permanent residence card, indefinite leave to remain, indefinite leave to enter or no time limit card issued by the Home Office (current or expired), to a non-EEA national who is a family member of an EEA or Swiss national.
  • A biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid (not expired) at the time the right to rent check is made.
  • A passport or other travel document (current or expired) endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
  • A current immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is permitted to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid (not expired) at the time the right to rent check is made.
  • A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.

Two – Permanent Right to Reside – any TWO of these documents will be sufficient:

  • A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, which includes the name(s) of at least one of the holder’s parents or adoptive parents.
  • A letter issued within the last 3 months confirming the holder’s name, issued by a UK government department or local authority and signed by a named official (giving their name and professional address), or signed by a British passport holder (giving their name, address and passport number), or issued by a person who employs the holder (giving their name and company address) confirming the holder’s status as an employee.
  • A letter from a UK police force confirming the holder is a victim of crime and personal documents have been stolen, stating the crime reference number, issued within the last 3 months.
  • Evidence (identity card, document of confirmation issued by one of HM forces, confirmation letter issued by the Secretary of State) of the holder’s previous or current service in any of HM’s UK armed forces.
  • A letter from HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service or the Northern Ireland Prison Service confirming the holder’s name, date of birth, and that they have been released from custody of that service in the past 3 months; or a letter from an officer of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales, an officer of a local authority in Scotland or an officer of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland confirming that the holder is the subject of an order requiring supervision by that officer.
  • Letter from a UK further or higher education institution confirming the holder’s acceptance on a course of studies.
  • A current full or provisional UK driving licence.
  • A current UK firearm or shotgun certificate.
  • Disclosure and Barring Service certificate issued within the last 3 months.
  • Benefits paperwork issued by HMRC, Local Authority or a Job Centre Plus, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions or the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development, within the 3 months prior to commencement of tenancy.

Three – Time Limited Right to Resideany ONE of these documents will be sufficient:

  • A valid passport or other travel document endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK for a time-limited period.
  • A current biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder, which indicates that the named person is permitted to stay in the UK for a time limited period.
  • A current residence card (including an accession residence card or a derivative residence card) issued by the Home Office to a non-EEA national who is either a family member of an EEA or Swiss national or has a derivative right of residence.
  • A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK for a time-limited period.
  • In the case that the person has an ongoing application with the Home Office, or their documents are with the Home Office, or they claim to have a discretionary right to rent, an email from the Landlords Checking Service providing a “yes” response to a right to rent request. This will only be sent to the landlord by the Landlords Checking Service.

Identifying Documents

Landlords are not expected to know different forms of ID documents from around the world, they simply need to check ID against the documents produced to ensure to the best of their ability that the document is not fraudulent. Check dates match and look for evidence of tampering. If everything looks genuine then retaining a good copy will absolve the landlord from prosecution later.

If you are in any doubt there is a government helpline to give assistance: 0300 069 9799

The Public Register of Authentic travel and identity Documents Online – PRADO – can help identify European Economic Area (EEA) nationals’ documents.

In cases where no ID documents are available landlords or agents would need to contact the Home Office, and similarly if the tenant’s right to reside has expired.

The Immigration Bill 2015 may amend some of these rules and there are plans afoot to make the housing of illegal immigrants a criminal rather than a civil offence, which could lead to a criminal record.

Landlords should be aware:

The responsibility for doing these checks falls on the landlord. If landlords are to delegate the responsibility to an agent they will need a written agreement, signed by both parties stating time- scales and stating that the agent takes full responsibility for penalties if the regulations are not fully complied with.

All checks must be carried out within the 29 days prior to the tenancy agreement being entered into.

Under the Equality Act 2010 landlords are prevented from discriminating on grounds of race, including nationality, colour of skin, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

For further information:

PRADO – Public Register of Authentic travel and identity Documents Online here

Check your tenant’s right to rent here

Report an immigration crime – Home Office – here

Right to rent immigration checks: landlords’ code of practice here

A short guide for landlords on right to rent here

LandlordZONE® letting Documents and Checklists – www.landlordzone.co.uk/documents

TenantVERIFY® confirms Right-to-Rent with every check – www.TenantVERIFY.co.uk

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