Commonwealth citizens (‘Windrush’) and Right to Rent

Many commonwealth citizens have lived in the UK for most of their lives but recently it has become clear that they have had difficulty providing the necessary evidence to prove their status. The government has therefore issued urgent guidance for landlords on the RtR checks on undocumented commonwealth citizens while they take steps to resolve the status of these people and provide them with appropriate documents.

‘Windrush’ cases

Those that arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Commonwealth Caribbean countries have been labelled the ‘Windrush’ generation. With the introduction of the 1971 Immigration Act those already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain. Many of those that arrived as children travelled on parents’ passports. They never applied for travel documents because they came from British colonies and assumed they had British citizenship. For those with a British passport born overseas arriving after 1971 the rules were changed. It is important to bear in mind however, that this issue extends beyond the Caribbean to all commonwealth countries as people came from many of them on the same basis.

Guidance

The new urgent guidance states:

  1. If a prospective tenant has lived in the UK permanently since before 1973 and has not been away for long periods in the last 30 years, they have an automatic right to be here and to rent property.
  2. If a prospective tenant came to the UK after 1 January 1973 then they might not have an automatic right to be here, but they may still be given permission to stay here permanently and will have the right to rent property.

Where landlords or agents are concerned about a prospective tenant’s status they should contact the Home Office checking service immediately. Prospective tenants should also be advised to contact the dedicated unit in the Home Office so that they can help them with the necessary documents if required.

The government has committed a task force to resolve the issue over the lack of documents for these citizens. We understand that issues should be resolved within a number of weeks however, this leaves a transition period which many may not have expected. It may also create further confusion for landlords and agents around the RtR scheme which is already complex and hard to operate.

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