Can the letting agent request my visa ? What is right to rent ? | The Tenants' Voice
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A Tenant Asks: What Is A Right To Rent Check

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right to rent check

To address illegal immigration in the country, the government launched a new requirement for landlords to check their tenants’ immigration status – the right to rent check.

From 1st of February, 2016, all private landlords in England, need to make right to rent checks. That means that all adult tenants occupying the property have a right to rent rent, live and work in the United Kingdom.

However, there are still some confused users like Mark Gregory, who asked us in the forums:

Hi, is there a new law which obligates tenants to go into a letting agent and have to prove visa status and nationality and sign the tenancy agreement annual renewal in the offices ? If you are English with an English passport do you have to do this?

In short: Yes, the letting agents are in their right to ask you for these documents. The landlord responsible for checking your visa status and making sure you can legally rent and live in the UK and can delegate this to their letting or managing agent.

What is a right to rent check ?

From 1st of February, 2016, all private landlords in England are responsible for making sure their tenants are allowed to live and rent in the UK.

For example, British nationals, citizens of countries in the EEA, and Swiss nationals automatically have the right to live and rent in the UK. Citizens of countries outside of the UK most likely need to have a visa to live in the UK.

Your landlords is responsible for checking your identity and all documents regarding your entry and stay in the United Kingdom at the start of your tenancy (after 1st of February, 2016).

How to make a right to rent check

At the start of your tenancy, your landlord has to:

  • Make sure you (any adult tenant) are using the property as your main home
  • Ask you for original documents that prove you’re allowed to live and rent in the UK. This can be the passport, a visa or a birth certificate
  • The landlord will ask you to provide all documents that prove your identity, so they can check that all information is consistent across all documents and they are authentic
  • The landlord will make copies of all documents and document the date on which they checked your right to rent

For example you can legally rent in the UK if you have a:

  • Passport showing that the holder is a British Citizen, or a citizen of the UK and Colonies, having the right of abode in the UK
  • Passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area or Switzerland, having a right to rent in the UK

For a full list of documents that prove your right to rent in the UK, please visit this link.

If you’re permitted to stay in the UK for a certain period, your landlord needs to make another check before that period expires.

The landlord needs to check if you have a right to rent every 12 months.

Under some circumstances, the tenant can provide a combination of two documents, which makes them exempt from further checks. You don’t need to have your rights to rent rechecked if you, for example, provide a British birth certificate and a letter that you are accepted in a further or higher education institution for a currently on-going course.

When the landlord does not perform a right to rent check:

  • If you’re under 18 years of old
  • If you live in social housing
  • If you live in student halls of residence
  • If you live in a holiday home, a hotel or hostel

What are the consequences for failing the right to rent check

If your documents are not convincing that you indeed have a right to rent in the UK, your landlord can ask the Home Office to run a check on you. They will receive an answer within two days.

If your landlord determines that you can no longer live in the UK, they are required to report to Home Office with your:

  • Full name
  • Address of the property
  • The landlord’s name and contact details
  • The date when the tenancy started
  • Copies of your documents that were made in the first right to rent check the landlord made

If your landlord fails to perform a right to rent check or if they are renting a property to an illegal immigrant, they are liable to receive a civil penalty. First time penalty is £1,000 and any consecutive £3,000.

The landlord can assign their letting or managing agent to do the right to rent checks. This is where user Mark Gregory has been asked to provide their identity documents and prove their visa status. Asking the tenant to sign the tenancy renewal in the office allows them to do both things at once, which is in favour of all parties.

Facing discrimination

Even though the landlord is legally obliged to check your nationality and immigration status, they cannot discriminate against you based on your nationality, ethos, religion or language.

If you feel your rights are being ignored and your landlord is discriminating against you, contact Shelter immediately on 0808 800 4444.

Or use the Shelter Advice Finder service on their website.

Your landlord doesn’t need to evict you because you don’t have a right to rent. However, they are free to do so, provided the follow the correct procedure for your type of tenancy.

This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.

The Tenants’ Voice advises tenants to act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to their tenancy. If you suspect an infringement of your rights then seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter 0808 800 4444

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