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Posted 19 Sep 2023

Right To Rent Checks And Other Tenant Checks

landlord / right to rent check / tenancy

What is a right to rent check? What do you have to do? Learn more about the right to rent check and other tenant checks here.

If you want to know what a right to rent check is, or find out more about the other checks that tenants go through before renting, you’ve come to the right place – let me be your guide.

Tenant checks in general have been around for a very long time, but the right to rent check is relatively new.

It featured in the Immigration Act 2016 and according to Home Office research and analysis, the majority – 55% – of private landlords have a positive view of the UK’s right to rent policy.

Other checks are in place to make sure that tenants have enough money to pay the rent, aren’t likely to fall into debt and are proven to look after the properties they live in.

Whether you’re a prospective tenant or a landlord looking to let out your property, here’s my overview of the right to rent check, plus other tenant checks.

What is a right to rent check?

The landlord, or an agent acting on the landlord’s behalf, must perform a right to rent check on every tenant aged 18 or above before the tenancy begins and they move house.

It doesn’t matter if a tenant’s name does not appear on the tenancy agreement, the check is a legal requirement in the UK. It’s also illegal to only check tenants’ right to rent if you think they are not UK citizens, but not to do it for those you believe are.

It’s best practice to carry out the check within 28 days before the tenancy starts, in case they are only allowed to stay for a limited period of time.

The right to rent check process

In short, the process involves asking each tenant for original documents and checking them for the right to live in the UK during the tenancy period. Then you make and keep a copy of the documents, noting the date of your checks.

For citizens with a British or Irish passport, a certificate of registration, or a certificate of naturalisation, this is relatively more straightforward.

For non-British or Irish citizens, original immigration documents are required. There is a long list of accepted documents detailed in this government guide, plus those that are no longer valid since the UK left the European Union in 2020.

Aside from the documents mentioned above, the list of accepted documents includes:

  • A current travel document or passport endorsed to show that the named person, for a time-limited period, is allowed to stay in the UK
  • A current immigration status document with a valid endorsement, issued by the Home Office, confirming the holder’s right to stay in the UK for a time-limited period 
  • A Certificate of Application showing that the named person has applied to the UK EU Settlement Scheme, issued by the Home Office
  • A current passport endorsed to confirm a status of ‘exempt from immigration control’, having indefinite leave in the UK, or the right of abode in the UK, or no time limit on their stay, or an equivalent travel document
  • Other documents issued by the Bailiwick of Jersey, Bailiwick of Guernsey or the Isle of Man

On the document, which should not look damaged or changed, the photo must be of the tenant.

If their name is different, there needs to be a supporting document explaining the change – for example, a marriage certificate.

Right to rent check share code

Landlords cannot accept biometric residence cards or permits and need to ask tenants for a 9-digit long ‘share code’ instead.

  • Share codes are also an option for those with settled or pre-settled status and tenants who have used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app when applying for a visa
  • A landlord or their agent just needs the tenant’s share code and date of birth to check right to rent via the government’s website
  • Then it’s just a case of noting the check date, saving a copy of the tenant’s profile page, keeping it until one year after the tenancy is complete and following data protection laws

If tenants don’t have original documents or share codes – for example, if their application is still ongoing – a Home Office right to rent check is another option. In this scenario, the tenant should have a reference number for their Home Office case.

Tenants do not have the right to rent in the UK if they do not have the correct documents, nor a valid share code, nor approval from a Home Office right to rent check online.

Follow-up checks

In terms of right to rent checks, there is one more requirement. Landlords or their agents must carry out follow-up checks if there was a time limit on their right to stay when it was checked before the tenancy began.

The check should take place before that original deadline, or 12 months after the first check, but it’s not a requirement if there’s no time limit of the tenant’s right to stay in the UK.

The fines for letting property to someone without the right to rent in the UK are £1,000 for the first time and £3,000 after that.

Solvency checks

Some form of solvency check is essential as a way of ensuring that the tenant has the funds to pay rent on time each month, as well as the security deposit upfront.

The most common forms of proof here are bank statements or a letter from an employer verifying their salary.

Not everyone can provide this evidence – for example, students – so a guarantor, such as a parent, can also provide proof of solvency on the tenant’s behalf.

Credit checks

Tenants will also go through a credit check to make sure there aren’t any warning signs suggesting they may fall into arrears.

It’s a check of credit history looking for any evidence of unpaid debts, personal bankruptcy and so on.

These checks also look for other relevant factors such as county court judgements, which stay on a credit history for 6 years.

Reference checks

It’s common to ask for referees to describe a tenant’s character. The landlord or agent may ask for a brief written reference from one or two of the tenant’s contacts.

The most useful is a reference from a previous landlord, who can warn if the tenant has any history of failing to pay the rent or damaging a property.

That’s not always available though, particularly if it’s the tenant’s first time renting or they’ve moved to the UK from abroad.

Final thoughts: Right to rent check and other tenant checks

In addition to the above checks, there can be others too – as an example, linked address checks.

Anti-money laundering checks and searches for any signs of identity theft or fraud are also options.

But in most cases, the checks are not onerous requirements for the tenant or landlord. And with an experienced agent, the process tends to be swift and straightforward with a clear outcome.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. For further information around renting, take a look at my recent guides on how a break clause works and how landlords can improve their EPC rating.

If you’re a tenant or landlord with queries about these checks, or you’d like to find out more about something in our portfolio, we are here for you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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