In February of 2016, ‘Right-to-Rent’ legislation came into force. This means 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.

These rules apply to rental landlords, letting agents and property owners who are renting out accommodation. 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 will need to conduct right-to-rent checks.

What is the ‘Right to Rent’ check

Rental landlords must carry out what’s known as a ‘Right to Rent’ check when dealing with prospective tenants. 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 hefty 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.

How has the Right-to-Rent in the UK?

You have the right-to-rent a property in the UK if any of the following descriptions apply to you:

  • You’re a British or Irish citizen
  • You have been granted indefinite leave to remain (commonly known as ILR)
  • Your status is described as ‘refugee’ or have humanitarian protection
  • Under the EU settlement scheme you have settled OR pre-settled status
  • Permission to be in the UK through elements such as a work visa or student visa
  • The Home Office has granted you a ‘time limited’ right-to-rent

If the Home Office has granted a right-to-rent with a time limit, the landlord must conduct another right-to-rent check after either 12 months or when your time limit expires, which ever is sooner.

Right-to-Rent with 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. This means you would face no civil penalty for failing to do so.

Who needs to be checked under Right-to-Rent legislation?

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 place of residence. This also applies to everyone living in your rental property, whether their name appears on the tenancy agreement or not. If the tenancy agreement is a loosely arranged, implied or oral, the checks still need to be conducted.

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 may seem like overkill, but in the event of anything being untoward, you as the landlord could liable.

Should all tenants be mentioned in the tenancy agreement?

Whilst there is no legal requirement to list everybody in the household on the tenancy agreement, it’s certainly prudent to do so in order to protect yourself. Not only is this an advisable move for landlords to take, it also makes the job of determining who needs to be checked that much easier. It also removes any unnecessary ambiguity.

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

Can your agent conduct Right-to-Rent check on your behalf?

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. The good news is that this is possible. There must be a written agreement in place that details the agent’s responsibilities with regards to initial and ongoing checks. This is especially important if and when any new tenants move in.

The rules governing the checks state that this is as far as the liability can be passed along. This means that the letting 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.

Penalties for breeching Right-to-Rent legislation

If you are found to have breeched right-to-rent legislation there are a range of both civil and criminal penalties that can be imposed upon you. According to the government website, you could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison OR receive and unlimited fine for illegal renting.

You could be asked to prove you have conducted the necessary right-to-rent checks. This ‘referral notice’ details what you need to do and warns of civil penalties. After your case has been reviewed you will either be issued a civil penalty fine or a ‘no action notice’.

The penalty amount you receive is based upon the type of accommodation involved and if you are a repeat offender. The fines range from £80 for a first time lodger offence to £3000 for repeated offences with rented accommodation.

You do have a right to appeal. Although it’s much easier to conduct the right-to-rent checks prior to the tenants moving in.

Our final thoughts on Right-to-Rent

The ‘Right-to-Rent’ check shouldn’t be regarded by landlords as an optional part of the rental process. There’s nothing optional about the civil or criminal penalties that you’ll receive if you breech legislation with tenants who don’t have the right-to-rent. 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. If you don’t you could be left counting the cost.

Have a question or want to request some more information? Then simply contact us today and one of our friendly team members will on hand to help you.