The “Immigration Act” of 2014 lead to a pilot scheme which was initially carried out in parts of the West Midlands, and subsequently rolled out to the rest of England (excluding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), from February 2016. It was put in place to ensure that those intending to rent properties in England, are legally entitled to be here, and to clamp down on illegal immigrants, which is a serious problem in this country. The “right to rent check” must be performed no sooner than 28 days before the start of the intended tenancy.
The Landlord’s Responsibility
The responsibility ultimately lies with the landlord, who is required by law to get the “right to rent check” done, although the landlord can pass it in to the estate agent if he or she wishes. It is of the utmost importance that this check is completed, and any problems reported to the Home Office, or else the landlord risks a fine or even imprisonment for up to five years. Under this scheme, no-one of any nationality should be discriminated against, so the check must be carried out on EVERYONE, even if they were born in England.
So what does this check involve?
The landlord needs to meet with every person intending to use the property as their main home. What does “main home” mean?
It means the person:
– will be living there most of the time
– most of their belongings will be kept there
– they will be registered to vote there
– they have a partner or children residing there
At this meeting, the landlord will need to see original documents, for example a passport or ID, which will vary depending on which country the prospective tenant is from:
– for *EEA or Swiss nationals, the landlord must ask to see a valid passport and an EEA/Swiss national ID card
– for British citizens, a valid UK driving license and an original UK birth certificate
– for other nationalities, the landlord will need a passport, valid visa, or a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
(*Countries in the EEA are: 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)
The landlord (or whoever is carrying out the check) must then take copies of the documents, after checking their authenticity and that there are no signs of tampering or forgery. The details (photograph and address) must match. The copies must be held on to for at least 12 months after the end of the tenancy. As per Data Protection rules, the landlord should keep the documents in a safe place and inform the tenants of how their information will be used.
Is anyone exempt from the “right to rent check”?
Yes, anyone under the age of 18 is exempt, and there are also special rules in place to protect long-term non-EEA nationals, and also the “Windrush” generation, most of whom are here legally but cannot prove it.
What if Issues are Found?
If it is found that a particular person is not here legally and has problems with their immigration status, then this person is not allowed to rent the property, and the Home Office must be informed. If during the checks it is found that someone’s right to be here is due to expire, then a further check must be carried out in the future to ensure that the person is still in the country legally.
Post-Brexit Updates, from 1st July 2021
Since Brexit, the list of acceptable documents has been updated. The focus of “right to rent” checks have changed due to the new Points Based Immigration System. Starting 1st July, EEA citizens now require immigration status, just as other foreign nationals do. They can now no longer rely on their EEA passport or national ID card to prove their right to rent property in the UK. The vast majority of EEA nationals who are already UK residents will already have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30th June 2021, which was the deadline. This evidence can now be provided to the Home Office digitally, on the gov.uk website.