Right to Rent has not crash landed as a result of a judge ruling that airline staff should not be blamed for failing to spot forged passports that immigration officers could not tell from real documents.

Although the judge criticised the Home Office for forcing airline staff to check passports, the Right to Rent small print gives landlords a reasonable excuse for escaping fines for not spotting false documents.

In Section 5.1 of the Code Of Practice On Illegal Immigrants And Private Rented Accommodation, last updated in February 2016, the guidance clearly states: “Landlords should take all reasonable steps to check the validity of the documents presented to them.

“Landlords will not be penalised, if, having taken all reasonable steps to check a document’s validity, they are fooled by a good forgery which appears to be genuine.”

To apply the excuse, landlords or their agents must have:

  • Identified any adults living in their rental property as their main home
  • Requested the prospective tenants to provide original identification and residence documents prior to moving in
  • Checked the documents in the presence of each adult tenant they apply to
  • Taken copies of the documents and dated the copies

Providing the landlord has carried out these steps under the Right to Rent rules, the section 5.1 excuse applies if one or more of the documents turns out to be forged.

In the Ryanair case, the judge reportedly said calling on airlines to check passports “offends the basic concepts of justice and indeed rule of law.” More details about the Ryanair case can be found here.

Some landlord groups have leveraged the case to support views that landlords could face prosecution for allowing illegal immigrants with false documents to rent a home.

However, providing they follow the four steps laid out in the guidance, even if the documents are clever forgeries, the landlord will not face any penalty for being duped by a fraudster.

See our detailed right to rent guidance here.