Right to Rent scheme roll out

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Home Office has announced that from 1 February, the Right to Rent scheme will be extended across England. This means that all private landlords in England, including people who sublet or take in lodgers, will have to check their tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting a property.

The scheme is being extended following an evaluation of the first phase in the West Midlands. Right to Rent is one part of the government’s ongoing reforms to the immigration system to make it harder for people to live in the UK illegally.

What it means for private landlords:

From 1 February 2016, anyone who rents out private property in England will need to see and make a copy of the documents that show any new adult tenant has the right to rent in the UK – the checks don’t apply to existing tenancy agreements. The process is straightforward and many landlords already make similar checks. In most cases, the checks can be carried out quickly. However, if a tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal with the Home Office, landlords can request a Home Office Right to Rent check. A yes or no answer will be provided within two working days.

The rules only apply to new tenancies from 1 February onwards. There is no need to check the status of existing occupants. Checks are needed for all adults aged 18 or over who will use the property as their main residence. Landlords will need to keep copies of documents as proof that the check has been made.

There are exemptions from the new rules, including local authority tenants, certain types of (but not all) student accommodation, some accommodation provided with employment, hostels and refuges.

Landlords who do not comply with the new regulations, either by consistently failing to carry out checks or by letting properties to illegal immigrants may be liable for a civil penalty or fine. However, landlords and their agents will not be expected to be immigration or forgery experts and they will not be penalised if they are misled by a skilful forgery, provided they record that they have performed the necessary checks.

Further information and guidance on the Right to Rent Checks can be found at www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents 

There is also a special Landlords Checking Service - www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check - which will give a yes or no answer where:

  • The tenants’ documents are with the Home Office as they are pursuing an application or appeal to remain in the UK
  • The tenant has permission to tent from the Home Office

There is also a helpline for general advice for landlords on 0300 069 9799.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:

“Landlords with property in England need to prepare now for the new right to rent rules to ensure they are ready for 1 February.

“Ahead of the scheme’s roll out, we have been working very closely with an expert panel to make sure their feedback is taken on board and to design a scheme that is as simple and light touch as possible. Many responsible landlords have already been undertaking similar checks - these are straightforward and do not require any specialist knowledge.

“Right to rent is part of the government’s wider reforms to the immigration system to make it stronger, fairer and more effective. Those with a legitimate right to be here will be able to prove this easily and will not be adversely affected. The scheme is about deterring those without the right to live, work or study in the UK from staying here indefinitely.”