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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Q&A: right to rent


Private landlords in England now have to make immigration checks on new tenants to make sure they have the 'right to rent' - but what do housing associations and councils need to know about the scheme? We answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Although many social housing lettings are exempt, all housing associations and local authorities need to understand the scheme as it affects tenants taking in lodgers, people directed to the private rented sector and any lettings not via council nominations.

Does the scheme affect people accepted as homeless?

If they are housed directly by the local authority or through a nomination to an association, no. If they are directed to a private landlord, it depends whether it is a formal placement after they have been accepted as homeless or whether they are directed to private accommodation without being formally accepted – the latter cases will need checking by the landlord.

Are waiting list applicants affected?

All cases where a tenancy is offered as a result of the local authority exercising their statutory duties are exempt, including via nominations to an association. However, if an association makes offers to people from its own waiting list, they will need to be checked.

Does the scheme affect tenancy transfers, exchanges or successions?

Although transfers or exchanges of existing tenants are exempt, there is uncertainty about changes that involve new tenants, e.g. if a transfer involves a new adult family member, or a tenancy is obtained by succession or assignment. These cases seem to have been overlooked in the legislation. However, if the transfer is an assignment (mutual exchange or succession) and this is done by deed (rather than by termination and re-grant) it is not a new tenancy so it seems likely to be exempt.

How are lodgers affected?

All lodgers in social housing have to be checked by the tenants who offer them lodgings. Landlords should therefore review the advice they give to tenants to make sure it tells them about the checks. Some housing associations which offer assured or other tenancies require the tenant to get permission to take in a lodger. Liability for the checks depends on what the housing association does if a tenant asks for that permission. If it grants a general permission to take lodgers, then that puts the liability for checking on to the tenant who decides who moves in. But if the housing association has to give specific permission for named lodgers then that makes the association the decision-maker and it would have to do the checking.

How can we help people looking for private sector tenancies?

Make sure staff are fully briefed about the right to rent, the documents required and the danger that applicants may face discrimination. Ensure they read our free briefing and can access the CIH-BMENational housing rights website.

When will the scheme extend to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

The Home Office has held discussions in all three administrations but has not yet decided to extend the scheme beyond England. New regulations would be required to do so.

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