Can Landlords Refuse to Rent to Someone Based on Immigration Status?

If you believe you have been discriminated against (if you have the right to rent in the UK), landlords cannot refuse to rent to you on the basis of race or nationality. All landlords in England have a responsibility to prevent people without legal immigration status from accessing the private rental sector. To do this, landlords must verify the right to rent for all potential adult tenants before the effective date of the lease agreement, in order to ensure that the person is not disqualified from renting a property due to their immigration status. Landlords who rent residential premises to adults without properly verifying their right to rent may be sanctioned with a civil penalty. Before entering into a lease agreement, private landlords must prove that the occupant has the right to rent based on their immigration status.

The landlord must check these documents in person (or, alternatively, via a video link), make and keep copies, and clearly record the date on which the checks are performed. For people with an unlimited right to rent, pre-lease checks can be carried out at any time before the start of the lease. The Ministry of the Interior can send a referral notice to the landlord who considers that he has rented to someone without the right to rent. When a potential tenant or occupant has an unlimited right to rent, the landlord can carry out the checks at any time before the lease is granted. If the agent informs the landlord that a tenant has no right to rent before entering into the lease, the landlord will be responsible.

If your permit to reside in the UK has a time limit, the landlord must perform another check within a year or when your visa ends, whichever is later. The landlord could incur civil and criminal penalties if he rents accommodation to a person without the right to rent. When an initial verification determines that a person has no right to rent, the landlord must refuse to enter into a lease agreement. The results also showed that those most vulnerable, such as asylum seekers, stateless persons and victims of modern slavery, who require landlords to consult online with the Ministry of the Interior to confirm they have obtained permission to rent, face very significant obstacles. Please note that if you perform a manual verification of the right to rent, you will not be able to accept biometric cards or residence permits.

If a person needs a permit to be in the UK but doesn't have one, they have no right to rent. When a potential tenant or occupant has a limited-time rental right, the landlord must carry out the checks within 28 days prior to the conclusion of the lease agreement. There have been cases where this “right to rent” policy has resulted in discrimination against ethnic minorities, immigrants allowed to reside in the United Kingdom and British citizens who do not have passports. The Ministry of the Interior has published a code of practice for landlords and a user guide on verifying documents related to the right to rent. Under this regime, agents may be liable if they have accepted responsibility on behalf of the landlord for verifying their right to rent before entering into a lease agreement. Prospective tenants with an e-visa must use Home Office's online service for demonstrating their right to rent digitally.