If you are a student renting in the private sector, you need to know the facts about the government’s right to rent rules as this law governs the documents that you will be asked to produce when seeking a property.

The government has placed a duty on landlords or agents to check the visa status of tenants to ensure that they are here legally. When you rent a property, you will be asked to show your visa or biometric residence permit to your landlord / agent. This is so your landlord or agent can check that you can legally rent their residential property in England.

Before the start of a new tenancy, the landlord must check all tenants who are aged 18 and over, even if:

  • they’re not named on the tenancy agreement
  • there’s no tenancy agreement
  • the tenancy agreement isn’t in writing

This means that if you are here with your family, your spouse and any adult children, their legal status will need to be checked as well as your own.

Landlords or agents will need to check all of their prospective tenants as it is against the law to only ask prospective tenants who they think aren’t British citizens.

Not all landlords need to do these checks as certain types of accommodations are exempt. These are social housing, a hospice or hospital, a hostel or refuge and student accommodation. Sulets are exempt from this check and so is accommodation provided by universities and purpose built private student halls.

If you have legal permission to stay in the UK for a limited time, the check will need to be carried out in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy. Firstly, a check will be made as to whether the property is your main home.

Government guidance states that “a property would usually be a tenant’s only or main home if:

  • they live there most of the time
  • they keep most of their belongings there
  • their partner or children live with them
  • they’re registered to vote at the property
  • they’re registered with the doctor using that address”.

The landlord or agent will ask you to show them your original documents to prove your right to be in the UK and all members of the household who are 18 and over.

Government guidance states that the landlord /agent should check that:

  • “the documents are originals and belong to the tenant
  • their permission to stay in the UK hasn’t ended
  • the photos on the documents are of the tenant
  • the dates of birth are the same in all documents (and are believable)
  • the documents aren’t too damaged or don’t look like they’ve been changed
  • if any names are different on documents, there are supporting documents to show why, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree”

Copies will be taken of your documents and your landlord / agent will record the date they have made the check.

They will copy

  • for passports every page with the expiry date or your details (such as nationality, date of birth and photograph), including visas
  • both sides of biometric residence permits
  • a complete copy of all other documents

These copies will be kept by the landlord or agent for the time you’re their tenants and for one year after.

If the landlord / agent believes that you don’t have the right documents, they can use the landlord’s checking service to check whether you are allowed to rent without the right documents if:

  • the Home Office has your documents
  • you have an outstanding case or appeal with the Home Office
  • the Home Office told them you have ‘permission to rent’

The landlord /agent should get an answer within 2 working days.

Landlords / agents must do a follow-up check to make sure you can still rent a property in the UK if there’s a time limit on your permission to stay in the UK. Landlords /agents can get a fine if they don’t do a follow-up check and your permission to stay ends.

They will ask you to do a follow-up check just before the date that’s the later of:

  • the end of your permission to stay in the UK
  • 12 months after your previous check

If your landlord feels that you have failed a follow-up check, they must tell the Home Office if they feel that you can no longer legally rent property in England.

Landlords and agents will take this check very seriously as it is against the law to rent a property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in England. An unlimited fine or a prison sentence can be given to someone who has broken this law. Therefore, be prepared to undertake this check before you are allowed to rent property in England.

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