News & Insights

Right to Rent – New Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government have announced increased penalties for failing to carry out appropriate right to rent checks.

The right to rent requirements contained in the Immigration Act 2014 (IA 2014) prohibit private landlords of residential properties from authorising an adult to occupy premises under a residential tenancy agreement if that adult is not entitled to do so as a result of their immigration status. Prospective tenants will fall into three broad categories dependant on their immigration status:

  1. Unlimited right to rent: British citizens, Irish citizens and people who have the right of abode in the UK, which includes those who have been granted settlement (also known as “indefinite leave to remain”), those granted settled status via the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) or individuals who have no time limit on their permission to stay in the UK.
  2. Time-limited right to rent: Individuals with pre-settled status under the EUSS, Asylum seekers and other individuals who are in the UK lawfully but who have time restrictions on their right to remain in the UK.
  3. No right to rent: Individuals who have leave to be in the UK but with restrictions which prevent them from occupying premises, and individuals who have no leave to be in the UK.

Since 1 February 2016, landlords and letting agents have been required to check the status of all prospective tenants to ascertain whether those prospective tenants have the right to occupy the premises prior to granting them a tenancy. This can be done by carrying out one of the following before commencing a tenancy:

  • A Home Office online right to rent check (non-British and non-Irish citizens).
  • A right to rent check using Identity Document Validation Technology (also known as IDVT) via a third-party identity services provider (British and Irish citizens only).
  • A manual right to rent check, by inspecting acceptable documents.

Carrying out the requisite right to rent checks in accordance with the IA 2014 will provide the landlord with a statutory excuse (a defence against a civil penalty), in the event a tenant is found to have no right to rent.

The government has provided guidance on conducting right to rent checks – the most recent version was produced on 28 February 2023 and can be found here.

The duty to conduct these checks is ongoing, and landlords of residential properties must also make sure that someone’s right to occupy the premises does not lapse once the tenancy agreement has been granted.

Failure to comply with “right to rent” requirements can carry large penalties, which are about to increase as a result of recent government proposals.

Current penalties

Currently, where a landlord does not comply or cannot demonstrate compliance with the right to rent requirements, they can face the following civil penalties (per person):

Amount for a first-time penaltyAmount for further penalties
Lodgers in a private household£80£500
Tenants in rented accommodation£1,000£3,000

In more serious cases, landlords can face up to 5 years in prison.

New penalties

As part of wider plans to tackle illegal immigration in the UK, the government has announced that financial penalties for failing to carry out the correct right to rent checks will substantially increase in early 2024. immigration in the UK, the government has announced that financial penalties for failing to carry out the correct right to rent checks will substantially increase in 2024. The Home Office published updates to the “Right to Rent immigration checks: Landlords’ code of practice” on the 15th November and it has since been confirmed that these changes are expected to come into force on the 14th February 2024. The new penalties, which apply per tenant/lodger, will be as follows:

Amount for a first-time penaltyAmount for further penalties
Lodgers in a private household£1,000£10,000
Tenants in rented accommodation£10,000£20,000

In addition to the increase in financial penalties, landlords and agents will also be affected by the transition from physical biometric immigration documents (such as biometric residence permits) to the new digital eVisas, which should be in place by the end of 2024. As a consequence of this transition, landlords and agents can no longer rely on biometric residence permits as evidence of right to rent – in such circumstances, the proposed tenant and/or lodger should use the details on their biometric residence permit to generate a share code and provide this for the landlord/agent to use in their online right to rent check.

Speaking to parliament in August, Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said “Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue. There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties”. The government also looks to have increased enforcement activity, as part of a policy package intended to crack down on those not conducting appropriate checks.

This news may be a cause for concern for some landlords and agents – but, provided you carry out appropriate right to rent checks in line with the current Home Office guidance, there is little reason to worry about these increased penalties.

If you are unsure about whether you need to carry out right to rent checks, or would like advice regarding how you should carry out your checks, please do get in touch at [email protected]

Article Contributor, Victoria Ounsworth, Solicitor