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Getting a tenant

Checking your tenant’s right to live in the UK

Whenever you take on a new tenant or lodger for a property in England, it’s up to you as a landlord to check that they’re legally entitled to live in the UK.

It’s not just unnecessary red tape – you could find yourself landed with a hefty fine or up to five years in prison if you knew or had ‘reason to believe’ that your tenant didn’t have permission to stay in the country. So it’s important to cover your own back.

Even if you don’t have a tenancy agreement or the person in question isn’t the main tenant, you’re responsible for ensuring that everyone over the age of 18 living in your property has the right to be there.

Not sure where to start? Here’s what you need to do:

1. Check their documentation

You’ll need to ask your prospective tenant to see original documentation that proves their right to live and rent in the UK.

If you’re not sure what you need to see, the Home Office can provide a full list and will also check the applicant’s right to rent against their records. Make sure the picture on passports or residence permits match the people; that the date of birth is the same on all documents; and that if different documents feature different names, there’s a marriage or change-of-name certificate to explain it. If you suspect the documents might not be genuine, get in touch with the Home Office to check.

If the prospective tenant’s documents are being held by the Home Office for any reason, or if they tell you the Home Office has given them permission to rent, there’s a Landlord’s Checking Service to assess their eligibility for you, which takes about two days to complete.

If they’re a Commonwealth citizen and don’t have the right documents (e.g. they're part of the 'Windrush' generation), they may still be entitled to rent a home. The Home Office can confirm.

2. Make copies of all their documents

Once you’ve seen and are happy with their documentation, you’ll need to make copies for your records.

They need to be copies that can’t be changed, like a photocopy or high-resolution photo. You need to copy every page of a passport that feature the applicant’s details and permissions to stay, also recording the date you made the copy. You’ll then need to keep the copies for all the time they’re your tenant and for a year after they move out.

3. Do follow-up checks if their right to stay has a time limit on it

If there’s a time limit set on your tenant’s right to rent, you’ll need to check whether the status has changed in advance of the end date. If you follow up and their right to remain has ended, it’s up to you to inform the Home Office, or you could face a fine for that too.

If you need to check a tenant’s eligibility to rent, call the Home Office Landlord’s Helpline on 0300 069 9799.