How do you Screen a Tenant who is not a Resident of the UK?

In recent times, there has been a surge in the number of people immigrating to the UK, be it for educational purposes or in search of job opportunities. This surge has been instrumental in the government passing the Right to Rent rules to ensure that the landlords rent or lease their property to only those who are in the UK legally. To ensure that the landlord does not get into trouble for renting or leasing their property to an illegal immigrant, specific procedures have been prescribed for screening tenants who are not UK residents. Let us look at some of the frequently asked questions about Right to Rent rules in detail.

1.  What does Right to Rent mean?

The Right to Rent rules were enforced across the UK on the first of February, 2016, in accordance with the Immigration Act of 2014. According to these rules, the landlords have to ensure that their tenants are legally entitled to reside in the UK. This screening has to be done before signing tenancy agreements, failing which the landlord would face a fine of up to £3,000 for each of their tenants residing illegally in the UK. 

2.  Why should landlords be careful about Right to Rent rules?

The rules make it mandatory for landlords to screen their tenants meticulously and hold them responsible for improper screening of their tenants. Also, landlords found to be exploiting their tenants by flouting Right to Rent rules or refusing to evict tenants who are illegal immigrants could face fines, up to 5 years of prison time, or both. These rules, as opposed to the civil fines that were levied previously, serve criminal convictions to rogue landlords who play fast and loose with the regulations. 

3.  Does this mean landlords should not rent/lease their property to immigrants?

No! These rules have been passed just to ensure that people are not residing in the UK illegally, and not to discriminate against immigrants. It is important to note that any discrimination by the landlord on the basis of the applicant's nationality, race, or religion is illegal. This makes the screening process very tricky, as landlords must be meticulous in their screening, yet, be careful enough not to ask the applicant any question that may be deemed offensive. 

4.  How can a landlord screen a tenant before they arrive in the UK?

Take, for instance, the scenario in which a landlord has received an application from an overseas student who has gained admission in a college in the UK. In this case, the landlord would be unable to verify the documents in the presence of the applicant. In scenarios like these, the law allows the landlord to issue a tenancy agreement prior to checks, as long as the veracity of documents are verified before the tenant moves into the property.

5.  Even after following all these procedures, what happens if a landlord rents/leases their property to an illegal immigrant unwittingly?

Although the Act does penalise landlords who flout it, it does offer deference to those landlords who can demonstrate with enough proof the measures they have taken to ensure that illegal immigrants have been evicted within a reasonable amount of time.

For more information about Right to Rent, please visit