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Right to rent: Immigration checks by landlords

Thursday 14 May 2015 International students

The Immigration Act 2014 made it a legal requirement for landlords to check their tenants' immigration status before offering a tenancy agreement.

While this is currently not applied to all areas, private renters in the West Midlands will need to provide evidence of their citizenship or immigration status to all private tenancy agreements made after 1 December 2014. This policy was intended to make sure that the tenant has a 'right to rent’ a property, meaning that they are in the country legally as a UK citizen, EU or EEA national or have valid immigration permission to be in the UK. The checks will eventually apply to all private tenants, including UK citizens. Started initially as pilot scheme in the West Midlands, it is now very likely that these checks will now be rolled out nationwide.

We believe that these checks are discriminatory and should be stopped.

Along with leading migrant and housing charities as well as landlord groups, we are concerned that these checks will result in prejudice against a vast number of tenants, from international students and recent migrants, to those from BME backgrounds or different nationalities, with an uncomplicated immigration status.  We also don’t believe that any government policy should make people homeless, regardless of their nationality.

What are we doing about it?

The official evaluation of the scheme is now taking place and will be reported to Parliament before the scheme is widened. The Home Office is likely to press ahead with the full roll-out of these checks unless they find evidence of difficulties in the pilot areas.

So far there has been little reaction from agencies, tenants and groups in the pilot area in the West Midlands - which may mean there are no problems, but equally may reflect low awareness of the scheme. It may be the case that many landlords do not know about the checks, or are not bothering to do them- if this is the case we need to collect evidence of it.

We have teamed up with leading orgnisations such as MAX (Movement against Xenophobia), Shelter, and Generation Rent to gather information on how these checks are impacting all members of the West Midlands community, including Students.

So if you are a tenant, or a lodger, and you live in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley or Wolverhampton, please fill out the online survey and let us know your thoughts. We need to create a strong body of evidence for the Home Office about how this policy is really working.

Get involved – tell us your story of renting in the west midlands.

Who has the right to rent?

Under the legislation, you have the right to rent if you come under the following categories:

  • You are an EEA/Swiss national
  • You have the right to be in the UK under EEA law
  • You have valid immigration permission to be in the UK
  • You do not have valid immigration permission to be in the UK but you have been granted 'permission to rent' by the UK government
  • You are a UK citizen.

How are the checks implemented?

The checks will only apply to tenancy agreements that are entered into on or after 1 December 2014. If you already live in a property in one of the affected areas before this date then your landlord is not required to carry out these checks. If the agreement is renewed and has not changed (in terms of content, or the parties involved), your landlord will also not be required to undertake these checks.

Who is exempt from the checks?

While the checks apply to most properties in the private rented sector, the following conditions will mean you are exempt from the checks:

  • You live in an exempt property. This includes student halls of residence; accommodation owned and managed by a higher or further education institution, or a body established for charitable purposes only; and accommodation that you have been nominated to occupy by such an institution, or charitable body. Head-leased properties would fall in this category, but those found through a housing list would not. Full details of exempt properties can be found in the Home Office's guide for landlords.
  • You are under 18 when you enter into the tenancy agreement; you will remain exempt until the landlord's next set of checks are due, even if you turn 18 during this time.
  • You are not using the property as your main or only home in the UK.
  • The landlord is immediate family, such as a parent.
  • You are a guest in the property, you do not pay rent to stay there and it is not your only or main home in the UK.
  • The property is holiday accommodation and you will be staying there for only a short period of time.

What you will need to provide to have the right to rent

If you are subject to a right to rent check then your landlord or lettings/property agent will need to see original evidence of your right to be in the UK for example the following will be sufficient:

EEA/Swiss nationals

Passport or national identity card

Family members of EEA / Swiss nationals

EEA family permit or residence card

People with immigration permission to be in the UK

Current passport containing a valid visa, or a valid Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If these documents are with the Home Office as part of an ongoing immigration application (or you have a pending appeal or administrative review) then you should give your landlord your Home Office reference number so that they can verify this with the Home Office.

British citizens

A passport (current or expired) showing the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.

A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

There are a number of other documents British citizens can use in conjunction for the full list see Home Office's guide for landlords.

If you are a British citizen, EEA or Swiss national, or if you have an indefinite right to remain in the UK and you do not have access to the documents above, you can also use a combination of two or more other documents, including:

  • A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland
  • A letter from your education institution confirming your acceptance for a current course of studes
  • A current full or provisional UK driving licence (both the photocard and paper counterpart).

Landlords can also accept documents shown via video link and copied.

For a full list of acceptable documents and the rules that landlords need to abide by, see the Home Office's guide for landlords.

What your landlord will do with these documents

Your landlord should take a copy of these documents and return the originals to you. If you arrange your accommodation before you arrive in the UK then your landlord will check your right to rent before you move into the property. Landlords will be required to copy these documents and retain them for the duration of the tenancy and for a year after the tenancy ends. In exceptional circumstances and if the landlord cannot carry out the check the Home Office will carry out the check.

A right to rent check cannot be carried out more than 28 days before the start of your tenancy agreement. If your landlord does do not check your immigration status they will be fined up to £3000.

If you have any questions or concerns about the right to rent checks then contact the student adviser at your institution or students’ union, or if you do not have a student adviser, phone the UKCISA advice line.

If you have experienced this immigration checking process to fill in this survey to let us know what your experiences have been like.