There are nearly four million social housing residents in the UK. They are shared amongst 1,500 housing associations.
An important part of a housing association’s role is performing checks on prospective residents.
This helps them only offer accommodation to residents who can afford it.
It also helps them limit potential anti-social behaviour to ensure existing residents have a pleasant community.
Some checks are a legal requirement and failing to conduct them could mean the housing association is breaking the law.
This guide for housing associations explains what housing association checks are and why they are important.
Housing checks are when you ask a potential resident for proof that they meet certain criteria. These criteria often verify that the resident:
Can afford to pay the rent.
Has the right to rent property in the UK or the area they are applying to live in.
Doesn’t have a history of anti-social behaviour that is likely to continue.
This proof usually involves submitting official documents, filling in forms or getting a reference from a third party.
Housing association checks will usually only be performed once a resident has been shortlisted for a property.
There are two main ways to apply to live in housing association accommodation:
Through your local council’s housing waiting list.
Directly to the housing association.
No matter which route a resident takes, housing associations usually have waiting lists. When the resident reaches the top of the waiting list and a property becomes available, they will be shortlisted for it.
Here are seven checks most housing associations will perform. Some of these are required by law, while others make sense from a business perspective.
Any checks that relate to a resident’s finances are often referred to collectively as affordability checks.
You’ll need some basic documents to identify the people in the household and prove their relationship to each other.
Identity documents like a passport or driver’s licence for everyone in the household.
Proof of legal guardianship over any children. For example, a birth certificate.
Proof of their current residential address.
If the resident is applying for social housing via their council, they need to provide proof of residence in the area for the last five years. The types of documents they could provide include:
Council tax bills.
Recent bank statements.
A letter from a child’s school confirming their address.
Child benefit or tax credit letters.
Tenancy agreements with a previous landlord.
Most housing associations require residents to prove they earn enough money to cover their rent. One way to do this is by asking them to prove they are employed. They could provide:
A contract of employment.
A signed letter from their employer.
Just because an individual has a job doesn’t mean they are responsible when it comes to money.
There’s also a chance that they could have too much money. This may disqualify them from getting social housing.
Therefore, it’s important to get proof of their finances. This could include:
A recent P60.
Benefit award letters.
Valuation of any assets they own.
It’s also worth looking at the person’s expenditure. Calculate how much they currently spend on everyday living expenses like food and clothing. Then add on the rent and any service charges they will be expected to pay.
Think about bills they need to pay, including:
With all this added up, can they realistically afford the property?
Finally, you may also want to perform a credit check on the resident. This can be done using a service like Experian.
⚠️Credit rating warning
Just because someone has a poor credit rating, it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t be able to pay rent, or that they would make a bad resident.
One of the best ways to tell if someone will pay rent on time is to look at their history of rent payments from previous tenancies.
Ask to see a rent account statement and check that it is clear of any outstanding debts. Where you do see debts, ask the resident to provide proof of an active repayment plan.
The Immigration Act 2014 makes it a legal requirement for landlords to check the immigration status of potential new residents before they can rent a property to them.
This is called a right to rent check. The resident needs to show documents that prove they have the right to live permanently or temporarily in the UK.
Valid documents include:
A UK passport.
Two alternative documents, such as a driving license and a birth certificate.
A passport or immigration documents showing that the individual is allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time.
Residents with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or those with biometric residence or permit cards can go to the GOV.UK website to prove their right to rent.
💡Biometric residence cards
If a resident has a biometric residence card or permit or an e-visa, then landlords can quickly and easily check a resident’s right to rent online.
Those with a right to rent include:
British or Irish citizens.
Those with indefinite leave to remain.
People with refugee status or humanitarian protection.
Those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
People who have permission to be in the UK, for example on a work or student visa.
Those with a time-limited right to rent granted by the Home Office.
It’s against the law to refuse tenancy applications on the basis of:
Race, colour or ethnicity.
Nationality or birthplace.
The amount of time the tenant has been a UK resident.
The person’s accent or level of English.
A user guide to right to rent checks can be found on the GOV.UK website.
⚠️ Failing a right to rent check
If a resident fails a right to rent check then by law you cannot offer them a tenancy.
You should contact the resident and give them another chance to provide the correct documents, this is called a follow-up check. If the resident fails this check too then you must report them to the Home Office.
You can ask potential residents to disclose any unspent convictions that they or others who will be living in the property may have.
You can set your own policy to decide which convictions disqualify someone from housing. For most councils, this will usually be crimes associated with the person’s residence like:
Dealing drugs from a property.
Serious or persistent rent arrears.
Causing a serious nuisance or annoyance to neighbours.
Harassing, intimidating or being violent towards council staff.
Damaging a house or flat.
You need to have a good reason to perform a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on your tenants - for example, if they are working with children or performing a public service.
⚠️Spent convictions warning
You cannot deny someone a tenancy because of a spent conviction.
There are three main reasons why a resident would fail housing association checks:
They don’t have the right to rent the property.
Their past record disqualifies them.
Let’s look at each in detail:
If a resident fails a check for financial reasons, you should first give them the opportunity to respond and provide additional evidence that proves they can afford to rent the property.
If they still fail the affordability check, try to find alternative accommodation that better suits their situation.
If the resident fails a check because you cannot verify their identity or right to live in the UK then you should inform them of your intention to reject their application and give them the opportunity to find the required documentation.
If they can’t provide this then you should reject their application. You may also need to report the failure to the relevant authorities, like the police or the Home Office.
If someone fails to meet your criteria because they have had complaints of anti-social behaviour made against them or they have unspent criminal convictions then you may wish to deny their tenancy.
You should first inform them of your decision and give them the opportunity to respond.
Trying to get a new housing association property can be stressful for potential residents. Therefore, it’s important to be as compassionate and professional as possible.
Here are some tips for doing so:
If a potential resident can’t prove one or two points on the affordability checks, give them the benefit of the doubt. Note that this doesn’t apply if the resident refuses to send you proof or fails the tests. It also shouldn’t apply to residency checks.
If an applicant fails an affordability check, give them the opportunity to comment on it and provide additional evidence.
If someone fails an affordability check then you should remind them of their right to:
Request a review of the decision.
Make a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.
Pursue a judicial review.
Housing association checks might be inconvenient for residents in the short term. But in the long term they help you provide better-quality housing.
If residents can afford to pay their rent then it makes their tenancy sustainable. This allows them to feel secure in their home and ensures they can afford a decent quality of living. And stay in their homes long-term.
People who pass housing association checks are more likely to make good residents, looking after their home and paying rent on time. This helps the housing association’s finances and allows it to continue delivering quality housing.
Housing association checks help to keep ensure neighbourhoods are pleasant places to live, making it a more pleasant place to live.
Here’s an at-a-glance list of checks you need to perform before you offer a tenancy to a resident:
✔️Identity documents for each householder.
✔️Proof of legal guardianship over any children.
✔️Proof of current residential address.
✔️Proof of residence.
✔️Proof of employment.
✔️Proof of spending.
✔️Right to rent.
✔️Criminal record check.
Housing association checks are critical to ensuring your residents can afford to live in their homes. They also help uphold the law and create happy neighbourhoods with high-quality housing.
Another way to increase resident happiness is to provide a high-quality property maintenance and repairs solution. That’s where EVO comes in.
Our fully managed, end-to-end digital solution allows housing providers to outsource repairs and maintenance. We improve communication between residents, tradespeople and landlords, delivering quality housing and a better resident experience. Learn more about what we do.
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