Right To Rent Checks

26 January, 2014

In an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from renting a property in the UK, the government has introduced new rules which will affect us all.

The legislation 

Landlords are ultimately responsible for checking that the tenant and / or any occupiers over the age of 18 years have the right to stay in the UK and therefore the right to rent.  This applies regardless whether the contract is in your name or your company’s name and for all occupiers aged 18 years and over. 

Failure to comply can lead to action from the Home Office with the landlord facing fines up to £3,000 per tenant / occupier and so it is being taken very seriously by both landlords and agents alike.

How does this affect me? 

In order to comply with this legislation, you will be required to provide certain documentation to the landlord or their appointed agent for verification before you move in.  Failure to do so will mean it is illegal for the Landlord to rent to you and the tenancy will not proceed.

                 What documentation do I need to provide?

                A UK passport

                An EU/EEA passport or identity card

                A travel document showing indefinite leave to remain

                A visa (if applicable)

A Home Office immigration status document or a certificate of registration / naturalisation as a British citizen

All must be originals

If you hold a British passport or are a member of the EU/EEA then you have automatic right to rent in the UK but you must present your actual passport / ID card in person to the Landlord / agent for verification no more than 28 days prior to the tenancy start date so it can be checked and certified.  Copies or scanned versions are not acceptable.  A copy will be taken and held on file by the Landlord / agent so it can be provided to the authorities upon request.  You must ensure that your passport / ID card is valid; you will be expected to present any updated versions to the Landlord / agent for verification as they become necessary during the course of the tenancy.

If you are entering the UK on a visa then you will need to present your passport and visa in person to the Landlord / agent for verification no more than 28 days prior to the tenancy start date so it can be checked and certified.  Copies or scanned versions are not acceptable. A copy will be taken and held on file by the Landlord / agent so it can be provided to the authorities upon request.  You must ensure that your visa is valid; you will be expected to present any updated versions to the Landlord / agent for verification as they become necessary during the course of the tenancy.

What about my family?

The legislation applies to all family members aged 18 years and over regardless whether they are named on the tenancy agreement or not.

What about my aupair / nanny?

The legislation applies to all occupiers aged 18 years and over regardless whether they are named on the tenancy agreement or not.

Are there any exceptions?

The legislation applies to both personal leases (Assured Shorthold Tenancies - AST’s) where the tenancy is in your name and Company lets where the tenancy is in your employer’s name.

The only possible exception might occur when your employer takes the tenancy into the company’s name and the names of the occupiers are neither disclosed nor mentioned in the tenancy agreement.  In this instance the responsibility to check the right to rent passes to the company but only as long as the occupiers remain unnamed.  Your employer will then be responsible for undertaking the same checks and holding the appropriate documentation for all occupiers aged 18 years and over. 

Despite this leniency for company lets, many agents have decided to exercise full right to rent checks to ensure maximum compliance and duty of care and will often insist upon the inclusion of the occupiers names in the tenancy agreement.  We will obviously do everything we can to take advantage of this exception but cannot force an agent / landlord to relent on this if they are adamant.

Will this affect which property I take?

The new legislation is likely to have some impact on your property selection as landlords / agents may favour British / EU / EEA passports holders who can present the original documents for checking along with their offer and as a result demonstrate they are in a position to sign the tenancy agreement. 

Non-EU / EEA nationals requiring visas but who are in possession of their visa are in a similar position and can also demonstrate they are in a position to sign the tenancy agreement. 

If you are a non-EU/EEA national visiting the UK prior to your assignment to choose your new home in anticipation of your visa being issued then you will be at a disadvantage as you are not in a position to sign a tenancy agreement.

There is no set procedure as to how agents / landlords will deal with scenario.  Some may agree to commence the reference checks, prepare and issue a draft tenancy agreement for review despite the fact that the tenancy agreement cannot be signed, cannot commence and you cannot move in until every occupier aged 18 years and over has presented their original passport and visa to the landlord / agent at the start of the contract.  Other agents may simply submit the offer to the Landlord advising them of your position and refrain commencing any paperwork until such time that you and any other occupiers arrive in the UK to present your documents. It is likely that the property will remain on the market and there is a risk that the Landlord will decide to proceed with another applicant in the interim if interest is shown.

What if my visa is delayed? 

If a landlord / agent accepts your offer in principle in lieu of the necessary paperwork and your application is delayed for any reason then the tenancy start date will need to be delayed until such time that paperwork is available and may be presented in person for all occupiers aged 18 years and over.  Of course, lengthy delays may cause the landlord / agent to reconsider your offer and proceed with another applicant if interest is shown.