UK right to rent for tenants and landlords explained

Right to Rent: Why You Should Check Before the Tenancy Agreement Is Signed

Since February 2016, landlords have a new job.  As well as being a landlord, you are also an immigration officer for the government!

The Immigration Act 2014 imposes on all landlords in England (including lodger landlords) the obligation to find out whether the proposed occupants have a ‘right to rent’ property in the UK.

The regulations do not apply – at the moment – in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.  But they do apply in England.

What You Need to Do

You must check whether someone has a right to rent by checking documents. Find a list of acceptable right to rent documents at the end of this article.

The table lists all the kinds of document that can be produced by a tenant in a right to rent check. There is also a gov guide here.

You need to read that guidance and follow it every time you sign up tenants for a new property.  Its best to refer to the online guidance as the Home Office amend it from time to time and you need to be referring to the most up to date version.

Who You Need to Check

You need to check not only tenants but ALL occupiers in the property, apart from underage children.

So this includes:

  • Other family members, including
    • Adult children
    • Carers
    • Live in staff / help

So far as children are concerned, it’s best to get proof of age as teenagers’ appearances can be deceptive.

When You Need to Do the Check

You are supposed to do the check before the tenant moves into the property.  You need to see the original documents and have the occupier in front of you personally while you do the check.

You need to keep a record of the results of the check, copies of the documents you were shown, and details of any questions you ask and the answers you are given.

This record need to be kept very carefully.

If for some reason the tenancy agreement has to be signed in advance of the right to rent check being done, you need to include a clause making the agreement conditional upon a satisfactory right to rent check on all occupiers.

Then if you find out that the proposed tenant does not have a right to rent, the tenancy agreement will no longer be effective.

However it is important that you do the check before the keys are handed over – as doing it after then will be too late!  The tenancy will have started.

Things You Need to Watch Out for When Doing the Check

You are not expected to do a forensic examination of the documents to spot forgeries which are not obvious.  However you are expected to be alert to the possibility of illegality.  For example

You need to check that any photo on an ID document looks like the person in front of you

  • Be suspicious if documents are very crumpled as this may be an attempt to disguise a forgery and
  • Be suspicious if the tenants are taking on a property that appears to be too big for them – are they looking to take in unauthorised people e.g. as lodgers?  You need to ask that.  And keep a record of the answer they give.

What Can Happen if the Check Is Not Carried Out?

If you let tenants into occupation without doing the check, you are taking a risk.  If the Home Office later find that the tenants ARE illegal immigrants – you will be at risk of a penalty fine or (for cases the Home Office consider more serious) prosecution and a custodial sentence.

The penalty fines are £1,000 for a first offence and £3,000 for any subsequent offences.  Or if you are a lodger landlord, the amounts are £80 and £500.

However if you  have done the check and are able to provide proof of this, then even if the tenants are in this country illegally – you will be protected.  You have complied with the law and are safe from the penalties.

The checks need to be done before the tenants go into occupation because if they are done afterwards, there is nothing you can do if the tenants turn out to be illegal immigrants.   They will be your tenants and have a right to live in the property.

Make sure you get the checks done on time!  If you want a bit of help you can get my free checklist here.

List of Acceptable Right to Rent Documents

TYPE A1: Single Documents Showing an Unlimited Right to Rent

UK PassportEEA/Swiss National Passport/Identity CardRegistration Certificate or document certifying permanent residence of EEA/Swiss national
EEA/Swiss family member Permanent Residence CardBiometric Residence Permit with unlimited leavePassport or travel document endorsed with unlimited leave
UK immigration status document endorsed with unlimited leaveCertificate of naturalisation or registration as a British citizen


TYPE A2: Any Two of the Following Show an Unlimited Right to Rent

UK birth or adoption certificateFull/provisional UK driving licenseA letter from HM Prison Service
A letter from a UK Government Department or Local AuthorityA letter from the National Offender Management ServiceEvidence or current or previous service in UK armed forces
A letter from a police force confirming certain documents have been reported stolenA letter from a private rented sector access schemeA letter of attestation from an employer
A letter from a UK further or higher education institutionA letter of attestation from a UK passport holder working in an acceptable professionBenefits paperwork
Criminal Record Check


TYPE B: Documents Showing a Time-Limited Right to Rent

Valid Passport endorsed with a time-limited periodBiometric immigration document with permission to stay for time-limited periodNon-EEA national residence card
UK immigration status document with a time-limited endorsement from Home Office


Tessa Shepperson

Tessa Shepperson Landlord Law Blog Author

Tessa is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer.  More of her writings can be found on the Landlord Law Blog.  She also runs the popular Landlord Law online service.


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