As of 1st February 2016, landlords (and letting agents if acting on behalf of the landlord) must check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent a residential property in England.
Failure to comply with this legislation means a landlord can be fined up to £3,000 for renting a property to someone who isn’t allowed to rent property in England.
Before the start of a new tenancy, the landlord must make checks for tenants aged 18 and over even if:
- They’re not named on the tenancy agreement
- There’s no tenancy agreement
- The tenancy agreement isn’t in writing
If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, the check needs to be carried out in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy.
How landlords should make a check
- They will check which adults will live at the property as their only or main home
- They will request to see the original documents that allow the tenant(s) to live in the UK
- They will check that the documents are genuine and belong to the tenant
- They will make and keep copies of the documents and record the date the check was made
Landlords can be fined up to £3,000 for renting a property to someone who isn’t allowed to rent property in England.
Check if the property is used as the tenant’s only or main home
A property would usually be a tenant’s only or main home if:
- They live there most of the time
- They keep most of their belongings there
- Their partner or children live with them
- They’re registered to vote at the property
- They’re registered with the doctor using that address
Check the tenant's original documents
The landlord needs to check that:
- The documents are originals and belong to the tenant
- The dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired
- The photos on the documents are of the tenant
- The dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
- The documents aren’t too damaged or don’t look like they’ve been changed
- If any names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, e.g. marriage certificate or divorce decree
If the tenant is arranging their tenancy from overseas, the landlord must see the original documents before they start living at the property.
Landlords must follow the landlord’s code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation.
Landlords will make a copy of the documents
When the landlord copies the documents they should:
- Make a copy that can’t be changed, e.g. a photocopy or a good quality photograph
- For passports, copy every page with the expiry date or applicant’s details (e.g. nationality, date of birth and photograph), including endorsements, e.g. a work visa or Certificate of Entitlement to the right of abode in the UK
- Copy both sides of biometric residence permits
- Make a complete copy of all other documents
- Record the date they made the copy
They should keep copies of the tenant’s documents for the time they’re tenants and for one year after.
Landlords are required to follow data protection law.
If the Home Office has the tenant’s documents
The landlord can use the landlord’s checking service to find out if the tenant is allowed to rent property if either:
- The Home Office has the tenant’s documents
- The tenant has an outstanding case or appeal
They’ll get an answer within 2 working days.
They’ll need the tenant’s Home Office reference number to use the service. Landlords can call the landlord’s helpline if they need help.
0300 069 9799
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4.45pm
Friday, 9am to 4.30pm
Landlords must make a further check on the tenant to make sure they can still rent property in the UK if their permission to stay is time limited. Landlords can get a fine (also known as a civil penalty) if they don’t make a further check and the tenant’s permission to stay runs out.
Depending on which is the longest, they must make a further check just before either:
- The expiry date of their tenant’s right to stay in the UK
- 12 months after the previous check
Landlords won’t have to make a further check if their tenant doesn’t have any time restrictions on their right to stay in the UK.
If the tenant doesn’t pass a further check
Landlords must tell the Home Office if they find out that their tenant can no longer legally rent property in England after making a further check. They might be fined if they don’t.
They can choose to evict the tenant to but must follow the rules for evicting tenants.
Agents and subletting
Landlords can ask any agents that manage or let their property to carry out the check for them.