The government has now introduced its Homes for Ukraine scheme, under which sponsors are paid directly by the government for housing a Ukrainian family escaping the horrors of their war-torn country.
The £350 monthly allowance is paid directly to the sponsor for up to twelve months.
To be able to offer space in your home under the scheme, your home will need to be considered suitable. You will need to offer either a spare room or separate self-contained residential accommodation and must currently be unoccupied. The accommodation must be available for at least six months, be suitable for the number of people who will live in it and be fit to live in.
Whether your home is fit to house a refugee family depends as much on where you live as the state of your home. Some local authority inspectors have been accused of being over-zealous, deeming properties unsafe to live in because of simple ‘box ticking’ issues, such as the design of the stairs. One official even used a laser tool to measure each room of a seven bedroom 5,300 sq ft Cheltenham home to ‘check’ it was big enough to house a family.
If you are successful in passing your LAs criteria, there are other potential issues of which you should be aware.
Normally, when rent is charged for the use of residential property by another party, the occupier would be considered a tenant or a lodger. They are a tenant if the landlord does not provide service or attendance, and any agreement entered into is considered to be a lease. They are a lodger if service or attendance is required of the landlord in which he will need unrestricted access to the property.
In the case of Homes for Ukraine, official guidance emphasises that the payment is optional, and should be considered a ‘thank you’ for providing the living accommodation. It is not considered to be rent, and no further sum can be charged directly to the Ukrainian family.
Obviously, if you want to open up your home to other parties, it will no longer be occupied by yourself and your family. In these circumstances, to avoid any potential legal problems it is wise to inform insurance companies, leaseholders and mortgage providers of your intentions in advance.
In this instance, the Association of British Insurers has said that home owners providing a home to Ukrainians under the scheme, with no further charges made, will not be required to inform insurers.
However, mortgage lenders and landlords (including housing associations and local authorities), as well as leaseholders will still need to be advised, as there may be restrictive provisions in the agreement.