Your guide to right to rent checks in England

1 December 2021

Letting agents and landlords need to check the right to rent for each of their tenants in England before the start of the tenancy. Here's a breakdown of how to conduct those checks.

Landlords and letting agents must check the right to rent of all their adult applicants in England before they enter into a new tenancy agreement. This is to "prevent those without lawful immigration status" from renting a property illegally. Conducting the checks accurately and keeping records of those checks will help landlords and agents avoid fines for non-compliance.

  1. An overview of the right to rent checks
  2. Conducting a manual check
  3. Using the Home Office Landlord Checking Service
  4. Using the Home Office online service
  5. Checking B5JSSK citizens
  6. Temporary Covid-19 measures
  7. Future digital checks

An overview of the right to rent checks

You need to check the right to rent of your prospective tenant and anyone else that will use the property as their main home, before the tenancy agreement officially starts - and in the 28 days before that start date for tenants with a time-limited right.

It's important that you conduct these checks and keep accurate records as you could face an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison if you are found to have knowingly rented to someone who didn't have the right to live in England.

Some applicants will have "unlimited right to rent". This covers British and Irish citizens, those with EU Settled Status, and people who have the "right of abode", who have indefinite leave to remain, or simply have no time limit on their stay in the UK.

Other applicants will have a "time-limited" right to rent, including those with pre-settled status. For this group of tenants, you'll need to understand how long they're eligible to stay in England and then do a follow up check before that period ends, to make sure you aren't liable for any penalty.

If your tenant loses their right to rent during their tenancy, you'll need to report this to the Home Office.

Conducting the right to rent checks

Conducting a manual check

To conduct a manual check, you need to see the original documents that prove your tenants' right to rent - you can find a list of accepted documents on the government's site.

You then need to check these documents in your applicant's presence, to assess if the documents are genuine and not tampered with, and that your applicant's identity matches the document. Photographs and dates of birth should be consistent across the documents and, if any names differ, your applicant needs to provide proof of why. You also need to check that their immigration leave to remain has not expired.

When you've checked the applicant's documents, you'll need to keep records of this check, with the date it took place, and keep that information for at least a year after the tenancy ends.

Landlords and agents are not allowed to "mandate how an individual proves their right to rent." If a tenant is eligible for a manual check and they prefer this method, landlords and agents must accept their tenant's choice.

Keep your agency compliant:  Read our guide to lettings legislation  in the private rented sector 

Using the Home Office Landlord Checking Service

If the applicant doesn't have the necessary documents, you can use the Home Office Landlord Checking Service to conduct the check. You can request this check by completing an online form. You'll need to keep a record of the certificate of application, and should wait until receiving an answer before starting the tenancy agreement.

You'll receive either a positive or negative response from the Home Office on whether your applicant has the right to rent the property or, if the service hasn't considered your request after two working days, you'll receive confirmation that you can let your property to the applicant, valid for 12 months.

Using the Home Office online service

For some applicants, you can now use the Home Office's online service, introduced to make checks post-Brexit. Applicants eligible for this service are:

  • Non-EEA citizens with a biometric resident permit or card
  • EEA citizens and their family members with Settled Status
  • A digital Certificate of Application to the EU Settlement Scheme issued on or before 30 June 2021
  • Those with status under the points-based immigration system, a British National Overseas (BNO) visa, or a frontier workers permit

Your eligible applicants will need to give you their share code - which they can get on the government's site and will expire after 30 days - and date of birth. You'll need to then enter these details into the online service, with your applicant present via video call. This means that you can then check the photo on the service's profile page against your applicant. You'll then need to save their profile page as evidence of the check.

From 6 April 2022, if your applicant has a Biometric Residence Card or is a Permit holder, you will no longer be allowed to check their documents manually. You will have to use this online service. 

Checking nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or the USA who are visitors to the UK

Since 2019, B5JSSK citizens have been able to arrive in the UK via eGate, and therefore have no stamp in their passports for the date of arrival. They will have the right to stay in the UK for 6 months, but then will need a visa to stay for longer.

You'll need to first check their passports and evidence that they arrived in the UK within the last 6 months. This evidence could be their boarding pass, travel ticket, booking confirmation - or another document which confirms the date of their arrival in the UK. The check can be done either in person or over video call but you - the landlord or agent - will need to hold the original documents for the check.

Even though your tenants should have their visa once this 6-month period ends, the right to rent framework requires you to conduct another check before the end of a 12-month period instead, to prove that your tenants have a right to continue renting. Propertymark advises that "evidence of a correctly administered 12-month check" will give you a "solid basis" to avoid fines. 

Temporary Covid-19 measures

Since 30 March 2020, temporary Covid-19 adjusted measures have been in place. This means that right to rent checks can take place over a video call and with scanned or photographed versions of the relevant documents during this time. Originally intended to end by 5 April 2022, the government has now deferred these temporary measures until 30 September 2022, having seen a positive response to the announcement that agents and landlords will be able to use "Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) providers" to check the right to rent of British and Irish citizens digitally from April 2022.

Under the temporary measures, you should ask your tenant to share electronic copies of the original documents with you, then arrange a video call to check that the tenant applying is the same as in the documents. They should hold up their original documents to the camera, so you can check they are the same as the copies too. You need to then record the date you made this check, with the note “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.

Future digital checks with certified providers

The Home Office will make changes to legislation from 6 April 2022 to allow landlords and agents to use certified Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) using Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to digitally check the right to rent of British and Irish citizens. As mentioned above, the Covid-adjusted measures will also be extended past their original deadline, to give agents and landlords time to establish "commercial relationships" with providers and give them time to complete the full onboarding process.

With these providers, landlords will be able to verify their tenants' identity remotely and prove their eligibility to rent. However, tenants will still have the right to request a manual check. If tenants choose to use the new process, they will be able to upload images of their personal documents, instead of sharing physical documents with their landlords, and will help landlords recognise fraudulent documents. Until this new process comes into effect, landlords and agents should continue to follow the standard processes outlined in previous sections.

This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information, visit gov.uk.

Further reading