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Brighton Solfed Housing Union: Right to Rent

Right to Rent

In summary:

  • Hostels and refuges are exempt from right to rent checks
  • If your documents show that you are legally allowed to stay in the UK for a limited period of time, the landlord must allow the tenancy anyway even if the documents allow a stay in the UK that expires before the tenancy would end
  • Landlord’s may not do a follow up check if the documents you have shown do not indicate a legal time limit on your stay in the UK
  • If you do not possess the normal documents to pass a right to rent check, an acceptable form of ID is a Letter from a British passport holder who works in or is retired from a specified “acceptable profession”
  • It is not a requirement that the letter says anything about your migration status or whether you do have the right to rent in the UK – it purely has to state that the person has known you for longer than 3 months, and how they know you
  • It is at all times the landlord who is liable for penalties relating to an improper right to rent check – the person writing the letter would not be putting themselves at risk
  • This letter can be used with another document to allow you to pass a right to rent check

 

What is Right to Rent?

Before the start of a new tenancy, your landlord must check whether your immigration status allows you to legally rent in England. This scheme has recently been rolled out across England but right to rent checks are not yet legally required elsewhere in the UK.

The home office admits itself that the scheme is more an attempt to terrorise migrants and particularly undocumented migrants than it is a functional part of the UK border system. It turns landlords into border control as part of the government’s “hostile environment” towards migrants, and in doing so acts as a way for the state to further harass and intimidate migrants. Beyond what the government is terming a “deterrent” effect, the scheme has already resulted in undocumented migrants being picked up by the home office, and has almost certainly increased discrimination by landlords and estate agents. For example, they may prioritise applicants with British passports who they think will be easier to check than those without, and may choose to ignore applications from those with names they think sound “foreign”, seeing them as potentially harder to check and to rent to.

Who is checked:

Landlords are required to check all tenants aged 18 and over, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement, or if there is not a tenancy agreement.

Exceptions:

These checks are not required in:

  • social housing
  • a care home, hospice or hospital
  • a hostel or refuge
  • a mobile home
  • student accommodation


What is checked:

Tenants will be asked to provide to the landlord documents showing that they are legally allowed to rent in England. These documents can be:

Any one of the following:

UK passport This must show the holder is a British citizen or has the “right of abode” in the UK Current or expired
EEA/Swiss passport The EEA consists of all EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Current or expired
Permanent residence/Indefinite leave to remain/No time limit Issued by the Home Office to the family of an EEA or Swiss national. Current or expired
Biometric residence permit Issued by the home office and indicating “indefinite” leave or “no time limit”. Current or expired
Passport or other travel document Endorsed to show that the holder is either “exempt from immigration control”, has “indefinite” leave in the UK, has the “right to abode” in the UK, or has “no time limit” on their stay in the UK. Current or expired
Certificate of registration or nationalisation as a British citizen   Current or expired
Immigration status document Issued by the home office and showing that the holder is either “exempt from immigration control”, has “indefinite” leave in the UK, has the “right to abode” in the UK, or has “no time limit” on their stay in the UK. Must be current

Any two of the following:

Birth or adoption certificate Issued in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or Ireland. Must include the name of at least one parent or adoptive parent.  
UK Photocard driving license Full or provisional. Current
Letter from HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service or the Northern Ireland Prison Service Confirming the holder’s name, date of birth and that they have been released from custody of that service in the 6 months prior  
Letter by a UK government department or Local Authority Signed by a named official (giving their name and professional address), confirming the holder’s name and that they have previously been known to the department or local authority. From less than 3 months before the check
Letter from an officer of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales or the Probation Board for Northern Ireland Confirming that the holder is the subject of an order requiring supervision by that officer; from an officer of a local authority in Scotland confirming that the holder is the subject of a probation order requiring supervision by that officer. From less than 3 months before the check
Letter from a UK police force Confirming that the holder is a victim of crime and has reported a passport or Home Office ‘biometric immigration document’ stolen, stating the crime reference number. From less than 3 months before the check
Identity card or document of confirmation confirming service in any UK armed forces. Issued by HM forces or the Secretary of State Evidence of former or current service
Letter signed by a representative of a public authority, voluntary organisation or charity Which operates a scheme to assist individuals to secure accommodation in the private rented sector in order to prevent or resolve homelessness. From less than 3 months before the check
Letter from a UK further or higher education institution confirming the holder’s acceptance on a current course of studies. This letter should include the name of the educational establishment, as well as the name and duration of the course From less than 3 months before the check
Benefits paperwork issued by HMRC, a UK Local Authority or Job Centre Plus Issued on behalf of the DWP o the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development From less than 3 months before the check
Disclosure and Barring Service Certificate (criminal record check)   From less than 3 months before the check
Letter from a British passport holder who works in or is retired from a specified “acceptable profession” The letter should confirm the holder’s name, and confirm that the acceptable professional person has known the holder for longer than three months. From less than 3 months before the check

Any one of the following can be shown to demonstrate a time limited legal right to rent in the UK:

Passport or other ‘travel document’ Endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK for a time-limited period. Current
Biometric ‘residence permit’ card Issued by the Home Office, indicating the holder is permitted to stay in the UK for a time limited period. Current
“Residence card” (including an accession residence card or a derivative residence card) Issued by the Home Office to a non-EEA national who is either a family member of an EEA or Swiss national or has a derivative right of residence. Current
Immigration status document Issued by the home office, with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK for a time-limited period. Current

How is it checked:

The government recommend that the landlord makes copies of the documents they are shown.

If any documents use a different name than the one you are currently using, the landlord will also need to see this (i.e. a deed-poll certificate) and is advised to make copies of that too.

If you are arranging the tenancy from overseas and cannot show the landlord the documents while you are in the process of agreeing the tenancy, the landlord can agree the tenancy in principle but will still be required to check the documents in person when possible.

If your documents show that you are legally allowed to stay in the UK for a limited period of time, the landlord must allow the tenancy anyway even if the documents allow a stay in the UK that expires before the tenancy would end. This is to give you time to acquire documents that would allow you to legally continue to rent in the UK, but regardless of how long the stay your documents allow is the landlord is only obliged to repeat the right to rent check after 12 months, or after the limited stay expires if that is later.

However, the landlord may choose to do the follow up check earlier, for example if you tell them that you have had the stay in the UK authorised by your documents extended. If this follow up check shows you no longer have the legal right to rent, the landlord will inform the home office.

Landlord’s may not do a follow up check if the documents you have shown do not indicate a legal time limit on your stay in the UK.

In exceptional circumstances if the landlord is unable to carry out the check, they will contact the home office who will carry out the check for them, in a process taking up to 48 hours.

Passing a right to rent check when you have left an abusive or otherwise dangerous situation

There are many scenarios, in particular leaving an abusive household, that may leave you unable to access documents that you could have left somewhere that is no longer safe for you to return to.

In this event there are several options available to you.

Firstly, it is important to note that hostels and refuges are exempt from right to rent checks. However, as hostels usually require ID to check in and refuges are often full due to high demand this may be of little help.

If you have been known to a UK local authority or to a government department previously, for example if you have been paying council tax at a previous residence, you can contact them to request a letter, which must be:

  • Signed by a named official (giving their name and professional address)
  • Confirming your name, and that you have previously been known to the department or local authority.

This letter can be used in conjunction with another document as listed above to pass a right to rent check.

The letter from a British passport holder as detailed below may be a relatively easily accessible option to use for this document, as may one of the several other letters from various sources listed as viable forms of ID.

Passing a right to rent check as an undocumented migrant

As is commonplace in immigration law the right to rent scheme is complex and poorly understood by landlords and others who enforce it – especially since it has been in force for such a short period of time.

There are also high risks involved for undocumented migrants who may fail to pass a right to rent check. While a landlord is not required to report to the Home Office if you fail an initial right to rent check, there is always the chance they will still choose to do so. If you fail to pass a follow up right to rent check (the timings and circumstances of which are listed above) the landlord is required to report to the home office your full name, date of birth, nationality, and address.

As a result of the high stakes, the complexity of the law, and the big differences in the specifics of individual people’s migration cases, it is really important that, if this section applies to you, you get personal advice from people with the knowledge and skills to analyse your case and work out what is the best course of action for you to take.

You can contact solfed at housing@brightonsolfed.org.uk or by text on 07427239960 and we will be able to put you in touch with groups local to you or that specialise in areas relevant to your particular problem.

Template letter

Something that may be useful to you if you do not possess the normal documents to pass a right to rent check, though, is that an acceptable form of ID that could potentially be far easier to obtain than the others is the Letter from a British passport holder who works in or is retired from a specified “acceptable profession”.

This letter can be used with another document as listed above to allow you to pass a right to rent check.

The list of “acceptable professions” is quite long and broad, and you can view it here (click me!)

A really important thing about these letters is that it is not a requirement that the letter says anything about your migration status or whether you do have the right to rent in the UK – it purely has to state that the person has known you for longer than 3 months, and how they know you.

Also, it is at all times the landlord who is liable for penalties (often quite severe) relating to an improper right to rent check – the person writing the letter would not be putting themselves at risk.

This means it could be a great option if your migration status doesn’t legally allow you to rent in the UK.

The letter must be dated, with a date within 3 months of the landlord’s check and signed either by hand or in print by the British passport holder writing the letter.

It must contain their address, passport number, profession and place of work, as well as how long they have known you (this must be more than 3 months), and in what capacity.

You can download a template letter for this here (click me!)

Advice for international students

International students may face additional challenges on top of those already faced by students attempting to rent, including in the form of possible complications with right to rent checks. However there are ways to avoid or resolve some potential problems.

While a right to rent check will not need to be carried out before staying in halls of residence or accommodation provided directly to students by a higher or further education institution, a check must be carried out on students who are renting other forms of accommodation. This includes lodgers and those staying with host families.

This may be difficult if you are coming from overseas and so cannot show the landlord any documents, however as stated above the landlord can agree the tenancy in principle and then check the documents in person when possible.

When it is impossible for a right to rent check to be carried out altogether, an exemption from the checks can be granted when the student is nominated to occupy the accommodation by a higher or further educational institution. The way this can be achieved varies between universities.

For example, non-EU international students at UCL can collect a letter on campus by providing their university ID card and the details of the property they intend to rent. The letter will be addressed to the landlord and will explain to them, citing the legal basis, that the student is allowed rent the property without undergoing a right to rent check.



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