Ukrainian Refugees – Can I help?
Like me, you may have been disturbed by the recent events in Ukraine and the subsequent refugee crisis. No doubt there are many of you out there that want to offer help to those being displaced.
The Government have now released more information on their Homes for Ukraine Scheme. For those of us in the private rented sector there is an opportunity to provide accommodation although we still do not have enough information on how this might affect tenants wanting to offer accommodation in their homes.
If you are a landlord with empty properties then it is fairly straightforward in that you can offer your property via the scheme. The Government are offering an optional ‘thank you’ payment of £350 per month. This payment is only available for 12 months. They have also confirmed it won’t affect council tax or universal credit claims.
The minimum term is for 6 months but importantly because no rent is being paid, it is not a tenancy, it is more akin to a licence to occupy. This should mean it is easier to regain possession if the refugees do not leave. In reality though, Ukrainians will be given a three year right to remain in the UK and the right to work, so it could be that you could offer them a tenancy once they have established themselves.
Tenants may also be keen to offer to help. There are potential issues here for the landlord though that have not yet been clarified.
The first is whether the property might become a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). These types of properties must be managed under the Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006, and for HMO’s with five or more occupiers it is mandatory to apply to the Local Authority for a licence. If the property is in an area that has an Article 4 planning directive, you may also need to apply for planning permission as the use of the property moves from being a class 3 residential use to a C4 use.
The definition of an HMO is three or more occupiers from two or more households. So, lets say your tenants are a couple and they offer a room to a Ukrainian family of two, you will then have four occupiers and therefore an HMO. If the same couple let their spare rooms to a Ukrainian family of three, you then have five occupiers and an HMO licence becomes mandatory.
The next issue is around possession. If you are in a periodic tenancy and you suddenly need to ask the tenants to leave, for whatever reason, the minimum term of 6 months for refugees means you may not be able to seek possession. And the same if the tenants suddenly give notice. They won’t be able to give you vacant possession until the end of the six months, so even if the tenants move out the tenancy still continues!
Many landlords will have a mortgage on their property so it is important to check that there are no conditions on the mortgage regarding refugees, and the same for insurance policies.
There is an online application and the process involves seeing if you are eligible. It may be that tenants are simply not able to help given the points raised here.
No doubt more information will follow, so if you or your tenant are considering applying for the scheme and need more help, please do contact us.
21st March 2022 – UPDATE
Over the weekend the Government have released further guidance that address some of the points above.
HMO – They have confirmed that they do not expect councils to apply HMO rules to those taking part in the scheme. This is because rent is not being paid. However, where your tenant wishes to become a sponsor, whilst they may not be accepting rent, they are paying rent and therefore the property falls under the Housing Act 2004. I remain cautious around this.
Insurance – Insurance Companies have confirmed that they do not need to be notified. Again, if your tenant is looking to take part, the safest route would be to advise your landlord insurance provider.
You can see the latest guidance here
Please note the date this article was published as the law may have changed since it was posted. You should always seek independent legal advice if you are intending to rely on any of the contents.All resources & news