From February 1st 2016 in England landlords will be are required to check their tenants' immigration status before granting a tenancy agreement, to make sure that the tenant has a 'right to rent'. It applies to all occupiers of residential tenancies so it includes lodgers,subtenants and adult family members.
This will apply to all students and their adult family members who are renting in the private sector. University owned & nominated accommodation is exempt. Some private 'student halls of residence' will also be exempt.
You have a right to rent if:
You are a British Citizen or EEA/Swiss national; or
You have the right to be in the UK under EEA law (for example because you are the family member of an EEA/Swiss national); or
You have valid immigration permission to be in the UK e.g. Tier 4 student visa; or
You do not have valid immigration permission to be in the UK but you have been granted 'permission to rent' by the UK government (this only applies in exceptional circumstances).
'Valid' immigration permission means that your leave has not expired, please note that if your current visa has expired but you have made an in time application to extend it, then you have Section 3C leave until a decision is made. This means that you remain legally resident in the UK.
The ‘right to rent’ checks will only apply to tenancy agreements that are entered into on or after 1st February 2016. (Many students may have have signed up for a property for the next academic year e.g. from July 2016 before February 1st 2016. In this instance your landlord should ask to see your ‘immigration’ documents within 28 days of the tenancy start date.)
Additionally, you will not be subject to a right to rent check if any of the following points apply to you:
You live in an exempt property. This includes student halls of residence; accommodation owned and managed by a higher or further education institution, or a body established for charitable purposes only; and accommodation that you have been nominated to occupy by such an institution, or charitable body. Full details of exempt properties can be found in section 3.7 of the Home Office's guide for landlords.
You are under 18 when you enter into the tenancy agreement; you will remain exempt until the landlord's next set of checks are due, even if you turn 18 during this time.
You are not using the property as your main or only home in the UK.
The landlord is your immediate family, such as a parent.
You are a guest in the property, you do not pay rent to stay there and it is not your only or main home in the UK.
The property is holiday accommodation, such as a hotel, and you will be staying there for only a short period of time.
If you are subject to a right to rent check then your landlord, (or the property agent if you are not dealing directly with your landlord), will need to see original evidence of your right to be in the UK:
EEA / Swiss nationals
Passport or national identity card
Family members of EEA / Swiss nationals
EEA family permit or residence card
People with immigration permission to be in the UK
Current passport containing a valid visa, or a valid Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If these documents are with the Home Office as part of an ongoing immigration application (or you have a pending appeal or administrative review) then you should give your landlord your Home Office reference number so that they can verify this with the Home Office.
If you have difficulty providing the above documents then you can provide your landlord with a combination of other documents as evidence of your right to rent, such as a current UK driving licence and a letter from your school, college or university (student status certificate). See the Home Office's guide for landlords for a full list of acceptable documents, section 5.2.
Your landlord (or property agent), should take a copy of these documents with you present and return the originals to you. If you arrange your accommodation before you arrive in the UK then your landlord (or property agent) will need to check your right to rent before you move into the property. If you cannot provide the required evidence of your immigration permission the landlord may not allow you to move in. A right to rent check cannot be carried out more than 28 days before you enter into a tenancy agreement with your landlord.
If you have limited immigration permission to be in the UK then your landlord must check your immigration permission again after 12 months, or before your immigration permission expires, whichever is later. You do not need to show that you have leave to remain for the full duration of the tenancy just that you have a valid immigration status when the right to rent check is carried out. Some landlords seem to be confused about this and we have heard of people being refused tenancies on this basis. Please seek advice from The Student Advice Centre if you encounter this problem.
If your right to rent expires, for example if you become an overstayer, then your landlord will report this to the Home Office. Your landlord is not required to evict you but the Home Office may take action against you.
If you sub-let your accommodation (for example during vacation periods) or you have a lodger without permission from your landlord, then you will be considered to be a landlord and will be required to carry out right to rent checks. You should discuss this with your landlord (or property agent); beforehand to make sure that your tenancy agreement allows you to sub-let your accommodation and to agree who will take responsibility for conducting these checks.
Potential Impact on International Students
It is possible that new international students could face some practical difficulties in securing private accommodation, prior to coming to the UK, because of the need to prove your immigration status to landlords, before you take up a tenancy.
New international students have to collect their visa/BRP card, after arrival in the UK and so you cannot prove your immigration status until you are in the UK. It has been confirmed that a landlord can enter into a contract with you but should not allow you to move in to the property, until they have seen original documents proving your immigration status or they have checked with the Home Office. The Home Office has also confirmed that landlords can accept the 30 day vignette/sticker in a passport as proof of your right to rent. This would allow you to move in to a property before you have collected the BRP. However, the landlord may then ask to check and take a copy of your BRP once you have collected it.
Where possible we would advise you to book temporary accommodation e.g. hotel or temporary accommodation with the University (usually available during Orientation) for when you first arrive and then find accommodation once you are in Sheffield. This means you can view the property before entering into a contract and you will have all the necessary immigration documents. House hunting advice is available here.
Some students will need to extend their visa whilst in the UK and may have to send ID documents off to the Home Office, so it can be difficult to prove your immigration status during this time. However if your current visa has expired but you have made an in time application to extend it, then you have Section 3C leave and you are legally in UK. In these circumstances the landlord/agent can check with the Home Office to see if you have a visa application pending. It may be a good idea for you to keep copies of visas, passports and confirmation of any applications made to the Home Office.
This scheme has been piloted in the West Midlands and there were some reports of possible discrimination against non-British residents from landlords and agents. Landlords can be fined £3000 if they rent to someone without immigration permission to be in the UK, so they could be reluctant to let to people if there is any doubt about their immigration status. It is illegal to discriminate against you based on race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.If you have any questions or concerns about the’ right to rent’ checks or finding private sector accommodation, then please contact the Student Advice Centre via email@example.com and also visit the University’s private sector accommodation website at propertywithus.