Right to Rent Checks: A Guide for Landlords

Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 22nd January 2024

In the UK, it’s now part of landlord and tenant law that landlords have to check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent a residential property in England. This could be at the initial rental stage, tenancy extension or other circumstances that may arise.


In this guide, we aim to address the following: 

  • What is a right to rent check

  • Who does a landlord have to check

  • How to do a right to rent check

  • Right to rent check quick tips

  • Right to rent check follow up requirements

  • Fines and penalties

  • Right to rent and discrimination: a warning

What is a right to rent check?

A right to rent check is when a landlord makes sure that people who want to rent a residential property legally can.

Under the Immigration Act 2014 and subsequent amendments, it is a landlord's responsibility to check the identification and immigration documents of potential tenants to confirm they can rent in the UK. They must also keep records of these checks for at least a year after the tenancy ends.

Who does a landlord have to check?

Landlords should carry out a right to rent check on all tenants of a private residential property aged 18 and over.

It doesn't matter if they're not named on the tenancy agreement, or if there's no tenancy agreement.

Who does a landlord not have to check?

Tenants in the following situation do not need to be checked:

  • Social housing

  • A care home, hospice or hospital

  • Hostel

  • Refuge

  • Mobile home

  • Student accommodation

How to do a right to rent check

There are two ways a landlord can carry out a right to rent check:

1. By asking the tenants for the original documents that prove they can live in the UK

2. By checking a tenant's right to rent online using their 'share code.'

Both methods are relatively straightforward. The landlord should ask for the original documents, check they are genuine and that they prove the tenant's right to rent in the UK. Then, they should make a copy of the documents for their records.

With original documents

Landlords must verify the identification and immigration documents provided by prospective tenants. These documents should be original, valid, and not expired. The following types of documents may be accepted for right to rent checks:

  • Passport (UK or foreign)

  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

  • European Economic Area (EEA) identity card

  • Immigration status document or certificate of application issued by the Home Office

  • Birth or adoption certificate

  • Full or provisional driving license issued in the UK

With a share code

In some cases, landlords may be able to check a tenant's right to rent with what is known as a share code. This applies if the tenant:

  • has a biometric residence card or permit

  • has settled or pre-settled status

  • Applied for a visa and used the UK Immigration: ID Check app to scan their identity document on their phone.

To do a right to rent check with a share code, landlords need the share code and the tenant's date of birth. The share code is created when the tenant gives you permission to view their status, so they should share the code with you. You can then use the gov.uk right to rent check website to carry out the check.

9 right to rent check tips for landlords

  • Do not accept scanned or photocopied versions of original documents.

  • Check that the documents are not expired, in good condition, and belong to the tenant (i.e. their photos match their appearance).  

  • Make sure photocopies are clear and record the date you made the check on them.

  • Make sure the tenant(s) are present during the check.

  • You can't accept biometric residence cards or permits.

  • If names are different across documents, you should get supporting evidence of the name change such as marriage certificate, change of name deed or final orders if divorced.

  • British and Irish citizens can't get a share code. You have to check their documents.

  • There is no obligation for a tenant to provide a share code if they can provide original documents as proof of right to rent.

  • Be aware of GDPR and data protection law when keeping a record of right to rent checks.

Right to rent checks: follow ups

If a tenant's permission to stay in the UK has an expiration date, landlords have to do follow up checks to double check they can still rent in the UK.

Follow up checks are important because if a landlord fails to do them and the tenant's permission to stay runs out, they could end up with a fine.

So, when do landlords need to do follow up checks? Well, they should do it just before the date that's the later of these two options:

  1. When a tenant's permission to stay in the UK ends;

  2. 12 months after the last check.

If a tenant doesn't have a time limit on their permission to stay in the UK (i.e. indefinite leave to remain) landlords don't have to worry about follow up right to rent checks.

What to do if a tenant can no longer legally rent after follow up

If, during a follow-up check, a landlord find that their tenant can no longer legally rent property in England, they have to take action and report it to the Home Office.

Fines and penalties

Landlords and agents who don't stick to these rules can face strict consequences.

From 22nd January 2024, for a first-time breach, fines can be as much as £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier.

If they continue to break the rules, they could face fines of up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, or face criminal charges if they knowingly let someone stay in their property who doesn't have the right to rent. If they don't take steps to fix the situation or end the tenancy, they could go to court, and a prison sentence of up to five years is a possibility.

Discrimination and right to rent checks

Right to rent checks should be carried out in a fair and equal way. Landlords must not treat anyone differently or unfairly because of things like:

  • Race, ethnic background or skin colour;

  • Nationality, or where someone was born;

  • How long someone has been living in the UK.

It's really important for landlords not to make guesses or assumption about tenants based on these types of things, as this could give rise to a discrimination claim. The aim of a right to rent check is to verify the original documents, not provide an opportunity to discriminate against tenants due to protected characteristics.

If you're a landlord, or you're considering becoming a landlord in England and Wales, it's important to fully understand your rights and responsibilities as a landlord. For expert help from our team of landlord lawyers, get a free case assessment today.

Our legal assessment team can provide you with a no-obligation quote in just 5 minutes and have you set up and working with a specialist solicitor within 48 hours.

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