Since February of 2016, ‘Right to Rent’ legislation came into force, meaning that property landlords now have a duty to check the eligibility of any prospective tenants to rent a home in the UK. Essentially, those who are in the United Kingdom legally have the right to rent a home here, whereas those who don’t are prohibited from doing so.

The rules apply to rental landlords, letting agents, property owners who are renting out accommodation and even those who are taking a lodger into their home, as well as anyone subletting all or part of their property in either social or private housing.

The Right to Rent Check

When dealing with prospective tenants, rental landlords must carry out what’s known as a ‘Right to Rent’ check and whilst it’s not mandated by law to do so, if you don’t conduct the check and it turns out that your tenant doesn’t have the right to rent, as the landlord, you could be liable to pay a civil penalty.

There are some exemptions to this rule where the accommodation arrangements don’t require the check, the details of which can be found on the UK government website under the Code of Practice for illegal immigrants and rented accommodation.

Existing Tenants

If you have taken rental tenants since the rules came into force across the UK in 2016, the likelihood is that you will have carried out the checks already. However, if you’re a landlord who’s had sitting tenants in your rental property since before that date, there is no requirement to perform the checks and such, you would face no civil penalty for failing to do so.

Who Should Get Checked?

The rules for landlords regarding who should be subject to a Right to Rent check are pretty clear and easy to follow. Irrespective of their nationality, anyone renting out your property who’s over 18 years of age needs to be checked if they are going to use it as their main residence. This also applies to everyone living in your rental property, whether their name appears on the tenancy agreement or not. Even if the tenancy agreement is a loosely arranged, implied or oral one, the checks still need to be carried out.

Any children that belong to your tenant will not need to be checked, however, if by the time the rental agreement comes to be renegotiated, any of those children have turned 18, the Right to Rent check needs to be done. This might seem like something of an overkill, but in the event of anything being untoward, you, the landlord, could be left liable.

Should all tenants be mentioned in the tenancy agreement?

Whilst there is no legal requirement to produce a tenancy agreement that lists everybody in the household, it’s certainly a prudent move to do so. Not only is this an advisable move for landlords to take as a matter of course for a variety of reasons, but it also makes the job of determining who needs to be checked that much easier and removes any unnecessary ambiguity.

When things are left on an informal basis in implied or oral tenancy agreements, it just leaves the landlord open and liable, so it’s best to inject the necessary amount of formality into proceedings.

Can my Agent Conduct the Checks For Me?

If you’re a hands-off type of property landlord who gets everything managed by a letting agent, you’ll likely want them to take care of the Right to Rent checks too. The good news is that this is possible, but there must be a written agreement in place that details the agent’s responsibilities with regards to initial and ongoing checks, especially if anyone new moves in.

The rules governing the checks state that this is as far as the liability can be passed along i.e. the agent can’t then instruct someone else to carry them out on their behalf. Whichever way you do it, just make sure that you’re water-tight and not open to financial penalties.

In Summary

The Right to Rent check shouldn’t be regarded by landlords as an optional part of the rental process, as there’s nothing optional about the civil penalties that you’ll have to pay if you’re found to have tenants who have no right to be there. If you’re unsure about your current situation, we’d recommend talking to your local property letting specialist about the steps you need to take to protect yourself.

Alternatively, you could check the government website page on the subject where you’ll find everything you need to know. However you do it, just make sure you’re compliant and protected as a landlord or you could be left counting the cost.