Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Housing  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Adopting an empowerment approach to housing provision

Empowering refugees to understand their housing obligations

This resource will help your group support refugees to understand their housing obligations, to foster independence and empowerment as renters in the future. The family you support as a Community Sponsorship group will include adults who have lived independent lives. They’ll have been making choices for themselves and their families for a long time. When it comes to housing, they may have been renting accommodation in their host country or country of origin within a system similar to what we have in the UK. However, some refugee families may have never entered into a formal rental agreement. They may only have experienced of living in a family home, with friends or in informal settlements or refugee camps. As with every aspect of Community Sponsorship, your group will be guided by the family, their needs, and level of understanding when it comes to explaining housing, and particularly their rights and responsibilities as renters.

Tenancy agreements

Many groups are having the family they support sign their short-hold tenancy agreement very soon after their arrival. This may seem like a lot for their first day, however it’s essential to empower the family to take ownership of their new home from the very beginning. They will be overwhelmed with their arrival and may not completely grasp that this is their home, that they will pay rent and that they will live there for the next two years. Signing a lease can help them understand that they have responsibilities as tenants from the outset. 

You should also note that a signed and dated tenancy agreement is considered proof of address, which will come in useful for the family members.

You will need to translate at least some of the information on the tenancy agreement so that the family members know what they’re signing. But how many of us have ever read the entirety of a tenancy agreement before signing it? Tenancy agreements are not always clearly written, so we advise groups to spend time translating the main obligations of being tenants in the property, until the family feel less overwhelmed and can review the entirety of their tenancy agreement. Having a written document can be a useful reminder and signpost for future conversations. If you are welcoming a family where adults are illiterate in their native language, then provide the tenant obligations as a video or sound file and spend time explaining exactly what the obligations are. 

The minimum obligations we recommend you explain are: 

  • Payment of rent and date of payment.
  • The rental cost of the property.
  • How rent must be paid.
  • Whether you can smoke in the property. 
  • Whether you can make changes to the property or furnishings without permission.
  • What you must report to the landlord and how to do so.
  • Obligations regarding keeping the property secure.
  • Key dates in the tenancy agreement, including start, end and any break clauses.
  • Going through the inventory, and what must be kept in the property.

If your groups is providing housing top-up payments toward the rent for the accommodation, ensure that this is clearly explained to the family at an early stage, alongside the date on which this will stop. 

Once the family have settled in a little more, make sure you schedule in time to go through the tenancy agreement should they need help. 

You can find out more about tenancy agreements and also download a copy of the government’s short hold tenancy agreement, translated into Arabic by Reset, on our Providing a tenancy agreement page. You may also find the guide ‘How to Rent in the UK’ leaflet helpful. 

Break clauses

Some groups find that tenancy agreements have a break clause after 12 months. This is common, and you should ensure that the family understand how this break clause could be put into action by them or the landlord. Make sure the family members know how far in advance they must inform the landlord ahead of leaving the property. Remember that it is part of your sponsor obligation to help the family access accommodation for 24 months, so should the family wish to move within this time, do speak to your Home Office Contact Officer.  

Responsibility for tenancy agreement 

It is essential that you explain to the family members that they are responsible for meeting the conditions of their tenancy agreement. If the landlord has stipulated that your group is named on the tenancy agreement, make sure that you grant a license or agreement on to the family members as soon as possible – you do not want to be in a position where you take the responsibility for something you cannot control, for example, non-payment of rent, smoking in the property, or making changes to the premises.  

Some groups take on the initial tenancy agreement in order to have the property in place prior to the arrival of the family, and if this is the case for you, we advise that you plan to get this into the names of the family as soon as possible after their arrival. 

Names on tenancy agreement 

We recommend that all adults in the family (age 18+) are named as tenants on the tenancy agreement in order to ensure they receive the maximum benefits payment for housing costs. 

Further resources