Law guide: Property

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References and checks

References and checks

Legal issues

When carrying out the tasks described in this section, make sure that you comply with your obligations under data protection law. This is because you will need to collect Tenants' personal information.

Also, if your property is in England, Wales or Scotland, you should not attempt to charge your tenants for carrying out these checks. See Fees ban for more information.


Before you grant any type of tenancy, you (or your agent) are advised to take at least 2 references for prospective tenants. The references can be from a previous landlord or secured lender, an accountant, an employer, or a bank or a building society.

As well as a general reference, at least one reference should confirm the prospective tenant's financial status and ability to pay the rent. You have the right to ask for bank or building society statements. These will give you an idea of the state of the tenant's bank accounts, and will also be proof of address. You should also ask the tenant for permission to obtain a credit report and for the details that you will need to give to the credit reference agency.

You should check the references carefully (and not necessarily take them at face value – they could be forged or exaggerated). If you have any doubts, you could consider getting in touch with the referees.

You're advised to make detailed checks before giving anyone possession of your property (to reduce the risk of a prospective tenant becoming a problem tenant); if a problem arises during the tenancy you can't harass the tenant or take the law into your own hands, whatever the circumstances.

If a tenant can't afford the deposit

You can check whether any help with the deposit is available to the tenant. For example, in some circumstances:

  • employers may have a scheme to lend employees the deposit; or
  • local authority housing departments (in England & Wales and Scotland) may have a rent or deposit guarantee scheme, which would guarantee rent or the cost of damage for a specified period.

Entitlement to rent a property in England (the 'right to rent')

For tenancies in England, the Immigration Act 2014 requires a landlord to check that all the adult occupiers of their property have a right to live in the UK (even if the landlord uses an agent) before agreeing to a let. This is called the 'right to rent' scheme. Failing to do a right to rent check can result in a criminal conviction and/ or a fine.

Take care not to discriminate while carrying out your checking responsibilities and follow the Code of practice for landlords. Although the code doesn't impose a legal duty on you to follow it, it may be used as evidence by the courts and tribunals when deciding if you are liable.

To prove their right to rent, they'll need to show you one or more of the documents from categories known as 'List A' and 'List B'. These are set out in the government guidance Landlord's guide to right to rent checks.

Documents from List A mean that they have a continuous right to rent in the UK. Documents from List B mean they have a time-limited right to rent in the UK (either until immigration permission ends or up to a limit of 6 months).

There are different ways to check an individual's right to rent, depending on their country of citizenship.

British or Irish citizens

You can check their right to rent manually or by using a certified identity service provider (IDSP).

Manual checks

These require you to:

1. See one or more of the original documents from List A (this will usually be a passport).

2. Check the document in the physical presence of the holder to establish the following:

  • Does it belong to them? Is the photo, name and date of birth consistent across all documents you have seen? Note that the reasons for any difference in names across documents can be explained by providing further evidence, such as an original marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute or deed poll document.
  • Is the document genuine? Are there any signs that it has been tampered with?

3. Photocopy all the documents you have seen. It's recommended that you write something like Date on which this right-to-rent check was made: [insert date] on each copy. The copies must be clear and in a format that cannot be manually altered.

4. Securely keep the copies either electronically or as a hardcopy for the duration of the tenancy and for 2 years after it ends.

Using a certified IDSP

An IDSP provider will use identity document validation technology to get evidence of the prospective tenant's identity, checking that it is valid and belongs to the person who is claiming it. It can be used for British and Irish citizens who have a valid passport (including Irish passport cards).

A list of certified IDSP providers is available on GOV.UK.

Warning: You must not treat the prospective tenant less favourably if they do not hold a valid passport, or don't want you to prove their identity using an IDSP. You must perform a manual check instead.

The usual process when using an IDSP is:

1. You make your request and the IDSP checks the validity of the documents.

2. It then gives you the verification information, giving the results as a range of standards of confidence. The Home Office recommends that landlords only accept checks returning a minimum of Medium Level of Confidence. Do a manual check if it doesn't.

3. You must then:

  • Check that the photograph and any biographic details (e.g. date of birth) used and then provided by the IDSP match the person (to check they are not an imposter). You must also be reasonably certain that the IDSP carried out their checks in accordance with the government guidance.
  • Keep a clear copy of the IDSP verification for the duration of the tenancy and for 2 years after it ends.

Citizens from elsewhere

You can use the online service to check an individual's right to rent, but only if they have one or more of the following:

  • a biometric residence permit
  • a biometric residence card
  • an eVisa (if they used the UK Immigration: ID Check app)
  • status issued under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • status issued under the points-based immigration system
  • a British National Overseas (BNO) visa
  • a Frontier workers permit.

If they do, and if you have received a 'share code' from them, you must not manually check their documents and only use the online service. You won't face any penalties if the individual is later found to not have a right to rent.

The usual process is as follows:

1. The prospective tenant gives you a right to rent share code, which they may be able to get by using one of the government's online services: Prove your right to rent in England or View and prove your immigration status (the code is usually 9 digits).

2. You then enter this code and their date of birth on the online service.

  • Check that the photograph matches the individual (this can be done with the person being there in person or via a live video call).
  • Keep evidence of the check (this should be the profile page confirming the individual's right to rent - the page that includes the individual's photo and date on which the check was conducted).

If they can't or won't give you a share code, you'll need to carry out a manual check instead. This is the same as the process for described above for UK an Irish citizens, except you may be given documents from List B. You'll also need to check the documents to ensure that any time-limited right to be in the UK hasn't expired.

Note that you can't demand that they give you a share code. They have the right to ask you to check their documents manually instead. You can't treat them any differently as a result.

Follow-up checks

If you receive a document from List B, follow-up checks will be required before the person's permission to be in the UK expires. If they have an outstanding application or appeal in the immigration system, you should perform a check with the Home Office service to verify it.

Protection from a civil penalty

Following the above checks should mean you have a statutory excuse and so won't face any penalties if the individual is later found to not have a right to rent.

Consequences of failing to perform a check

As part of the Penalties for illegal renting you could receive a criminal conviction and or a fine if you allow someone without the right to rent to occupy your property.

You may have a defence if you have an agent managing your property and:

  • They are responsible for carrying out the right to rent checks; but
  • failed to do so; and
  • you were unaware that the tenants didn't have the right to rent.

But it must be expressly stated in your agreement with the agency that they are responsible for performing the check.

You may also have a defence if you:

  • Take reasonable steps to end the tenancy within a reasonable time after discovering that the tenant didn't have the right to rent; or
  • Complied with all the checking requirements at the start of the tenancy and then notified the Secretary of State as soon as the tenant's right to rent expired during the tenancy.

Right to rent issues during the tenancy

If you discover that your tenant doesn't have the right to rent during the tenancy (e.g. if their right has expired), you must take steps to remove them within a reasonable time after discovering this to prevent being guilty of a criminal offence.

You should negotiate with the disqualified tenants to see if they will agree to leave, or serve a section 21 notice to recover possession if the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy.

Alternatively, you should consider whether there are any other applicable grounds under the Housing Act 1988 to end the tenancy, including Ground 7B which has been added by the Immigration Act 2016. Ground 7B allows a landlord to terminate an assured tenancy if they have received a notice from the Secretary of State that any of the tenants, or any of the persons occupying the property, don't have a right to rent.

If Ground 7B applies to all the tenants, you can use the prescribed form for this purpose (Notice of Eviction and End of Tenancy under s 33D(3) of the Immigration Act 2014) to give the tenants at least 28 days' notice to leave the property. The notice is treated as a notice to quit and ends the tenancy without the need for an order of the court. However, you must not evict the tenants forcibly and should apply to the court for an order for a warrant of possession if the tenants don't leave, so that the court bailiff can carry out the eviction. This notice doesn't apply if some of the tenants have a right to rent. Alternatively, you can use a notice under section 8 of the Housing Act relying on Ground 7B, and then apply to the court for an order for possession.

More information

See Right to rent document checks: a user guide for more information on which documents are valid when carrying out checks. The Home Office has also published a Right to rent immigration checks: landlords' code of practice on the topic.

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