Right to rent: UK Government hikes fines for landlords who fail to comply
12 February 2024
If you are a landlord renting property to an adult, have you complied with your responsibilities to check whether they have a right to rent in the UK?
In January 2024, the Government announced a steep hike in penalties for landlords who allow ‘disqualified person(s)’ occupy their property as a main home. A disqualified person being a person over the age of 18 with no legal immigration status in the UK. The obligation to undertake right to rent checks derives from the Immigration Act 2014 and sets out a responsibility on landlords, and agents, to check the immigration status of prospective occupiers at the initiation of the tenancy.
Penalties for a first-time breach have skyrocketed and could mean you are liable for a fine of £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier, a considerable increase from the previous fines of £80 and £1,000 respectively.
Repeat offenders can now face fines of £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier. In the most serious of cases, knowingly allowing a disqualified person to rent a property amounts to a criminal offence with a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.
The gravity of ensuring compliance is unparalleled. As a landlord, so long as you comply with your responsibilities to conduct identity checks at the start of a new tenancy on all persons over the age of 18 who are intending to occupy the property as their main home (even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement), you will have a statutory defence and be protected from the severe penalties.
Checks for UK Citizens
A tenant with a British or Irish passport can prove their right to rent by supplying the original document to the landlord. A landlord must check the original document in the presence of the prospective tenant. The landlord should keep a copy of the document and note the date of the check. Alternatively, you can use an online service provider (IDSP) to do the check for you.
Checks for Non-UK Citizens
Non-UK citizens can prove their right to rent with their original immigration documents. This would include a current passport showing the holder’s allowance to stay in the UK for a certain period, providing the landlord with a share code, or proof of the prospective tenant’s settled or pre-settled status. More information about which documents to check can be found here.
Follow up checks
As a landlord you have a further obligation to conduct follow-up checks for those tenants with a limited right to stay in the UK. These must be done either 12 months after your previous check, or towards the end of your tenant’s permission to remain in the UK. Any proof of their continued right to rent should be copied and delivered to you. Failure to do carry out follow up checks risks the landlord falling foul of the severe penalties set out above.
If you are concerned about a landlord’s right to rent responsibilities or have any questions regarding right to rent checks, please get in touch with Alice Harris at Birketts.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at February 2024.