The government has recently launched the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme which seeks to pair up Ukrainian refugees with named hosts in the UK. Many of our landlords have been in touch with questions about whether their tenants are allowed to sign up to the scheme and what they need to be aware of if they were to proceed.
This article is designed to suggest some general considerations for landlords to think about before agreeing with tenants to take part in the scheme.
Is this allowed under the OpenRent contract?
Under the OpenRent tenancy agreement, the default is that tenants are not permitted to sublet or share possession of the property. As this is a voluntary scheme, strictly legally speaking, accepting a refugee under the scheme would not constitute an exception to this clause. However, as is normal for a contract term, it can be amended with the agreement of all parties. Therefore, as a landlord, if your tenants wish to take part in the scheme, this would be ok if you were to give them permission to share possession of the property in this instance.
There are some things that you may wish to be aware of before giving your permission:
Things to be aware of:
Allowing an additional person (or people) to live in your property could cause it to become a Home in Multiple Occupation (HMO). If your property is classed as an HMO, and especially if there are now a minimum of five occupants, you may need to comply with additional legal obligations.
Guidance on whether your property is classified as an HMO, and what rules apply to you, can be found on the government website.
We always recommend contacting your local authority directly if you are unsure about whether HMO, or other property licensing requirements, apply to you. If a licence is required, then you need to obtain one or risk significant financial penalties.
Head lease, mortgage and insurance
For leaseholders who have a head lease agreement, there may be limitations on what kind of letting and subletting is allowed at the property. Similar clauses could apply in landlords’ mortgage and insurance terms.
We would therefore recommend that you check whether taking part in such a scheme would be permissible according to the terms of these agreements.
Right to Rent
Landlords renting properties in England are required to confirm that all adult tenant(s) have the right to rent in the UK.
However, under the scheme, if a tenant has agreed to be a sponsor, then they will be responsible for carrying out the Right to Rent checks. Refugees will be provided with the necessary documentation under the scheme but we would recommend that you ensure that your tenants are aware of their duty regarding this if they wish to offer a spare room.
General considerations about how to enforce possession in the future
If you would like to allow your tenants to sign up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme, it is worth thinking about how you might regain possession of the property if circumstances were to change and it became necessary for you to do so.
Please bear in mind that hosts must provide accommodation to refugees for at least six months under the scheme.
As part of the scheme, security and safeguarding checks will be performed on both UK sponsors and refugee sponsees before being matched. However, we would also generally advise people to do their own checks as an additional assurance.
We have received some specific questions from members of our community regarding the Homes for Ukraine scheme which we have answered below:
- Do my tenants need to ask me before offering a room?
Yes, as part of the checks performed during the matching process, the government will check that the tenants have been granted permission by their landlord to participate in the scheme.
Additionally, as mentioned above, OpenRent’s AST does not allow for tenants to sublet the property in normal circumstances. However, this clause can be amended with the agreement of all parties.
- Can I increase the rent?
For context, the government is offering a £350 a month payment to all households hosting as a part of the scheme.
As with any situation, increasing the number of people living in your property could result in increased wear and tear. You may wish to consider a small rental increase in order to offset these additional costs.
If you decide with your tenants that this is how you would like to proceed, you can increase the rental amount of your OpenRent tenancy using our free renewals service.
- What if my tenants need to give notice and move out all of a sudden?
Under the scheme, sponsors are required to provide accommodation to refugees for at least 6 months.
It is currently unclear what would happen if the tenant sponsors wish to move out before this time, however, it may be that you become responsible for providing them with accommodation.
- Will my tenant(s) lose their council tax discount?
No, council tax discounts will not be affected by taking part in the scheme.
Finally, the government also has its own FAQ page regarding the Homes for Ukraine scheme that we would also recommend you read in full before giving your permission for your tenants to take part in the scheme.