Can Landlords Conduct Right to Rent Checks on Existing Tenants?

Landlords must ensure that they carry out right to rent checks in a fair, justifiable and consistent manner. This applies to all potential tenants, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. It is recommended that people with limited English proficiency be accompanied and advised by a third party, such as a friend or family member, a councilor or a charity worker. The landlord must keep evidence of the verification with the date the verification was carried out, for the duration of the lease and for at least one year afterwards.

This evidence should include proof of the tenant's legal immigration status in the UK, such as a British citizen or a person with an unlimited or limited right to rent. During this period, landlords or their agents must continue to verify the prescribed documents contained in the Landlord's Guide on the Right to Rent or Use the Home Office's Landlord Verification Service. If the landlord follows the steps outlined in the Landlord's Guide to Right to Rent Checks, they will establish an ongoing legal excuse against a civil penalty and will not need to perform any other checks on the right to rent, as long as the lease agreement is not modified. Under these circumstances, landlords can agree to a lease, in principle, via a video link and then check the tenant's documents in person when they arrive in the UK.

To maintain a legal excuse, landlords and agents will need to carry out a follow-up check before the end of the eligibility period. It is important for landlords to consult the Code of Practice to Prevent Illegal Discrimination when performing rent entitlement checks in the private residential sector. They must be prepared to monitor each tenancy over time to ensure that all residents have been tested to determine if they are entitled to rent. If their prospective tenant does not have any acceptable documents showing that they have the right to reside in the UK, landlords and agents can use the Home Office's Landlord Verification Service.

When verifying physical documents, landlords must check for expiration dates, authenticity, signs of tampering and that they belong to the tenant. The service will respond via email within two business days with a clear “yes” or “no” answer. Tenants whose limited-time rental right expires during the tenancy should also be checked. The law requires landlords to carry out a follow-up check if their tenant was entitled to be in the UK for a limited time when the initial check took place.

For more information on establishing a legal excuse against liability for a civil penalty when verifying physical documents, see the landlord's guide to right-to-rent checks.