A right to rent check is when a prospective renter shows their landlord or letting agent their documents, such as identity documents, in order to verify they can legally rent a property in the UK.
The responsibility to carry out these checks falls on the landlord as it is a legal requirement to ensure a renter has the right to rent in the UK but this responsibility may be passed onto the letting agent.
The government has set out guidance that advises a landlord, letting agent or homeowner on how to conduct a right to rent check when letting privately rented accommodation.
The guidance sets out the specific actions they can take to prevent liability for a civil penalty. This is called establishing a statutory excuse against liability for a penalty.
The Right to Rent Scheme applies only to residential tenancy agreements first entered into on or after 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, and on or after 1 February 2016 in the rest of England.
A statutory excuse is a landlord’s defence against a civil penalty.
In order to establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty in the event a renter is found to be renting, despite not having the right to rent, landlords must do one of the following before entering into a tenancy agreement with a prospective tenant:
- a manual right to rent check
- a right to rent check using Identity Verification Technology (IDVT) via the services of an identity service provider (IDSP)
- a Home Office online right to rent check
You can also use the Landlord Checking Service where an individual has an outstanding application, administrative review or appeal, or if their immigration status requires verification by the Home Office, for example in the case of Crown Dependencies.
In order to establish a statutory excuse against a penalty, right to rent checks must be undertaken within specific time limits:
- A check on a person with an unlimited right to rent may be undertaken at any time before the residential agreement is entered into
- A check on a person with a time-limited right to rent must be undertaken and recorded no earlier than 28 days before the start date of the tenancy agreement.
However, there will be some limited circumstances where it is not possible to undertake checks before the residential tenancy is agreed upon. See agreeing to a tenancy in principle for further information.