Community Sponsorship Groups across the UK have developed hugely creative ways to find affordable, sustainable accommodation for families arriving through Community Sponsorship. For the most part, we are seeing Groups accessing property through private landlords, whether they are connected to the Group or not. In this resource, we will look at the role of the landlord in your Group and with the family you support, providing some ideas for you to think through as a Group.
Role of the Landlord
Any landlord in the UK has specific obligations over the way in which they work with tenants, and we’ve found these clearly explained in the How to Rent guide from the MHCLG for England or the Rent Smart Wales guide for tenants in Wales. This will be useful to provide to the family once they move in, although their landlord is also obligated to provide this resource. We have provided an Arabic translation of the How to Rent in England guide. The Rent Smart Wales guide is currently being updated by the Welsh Government and we will provide a translation once this is available.
One element of the role of the landlord is that they must give 24 hours’ notice of any visit. This could be to carry out repairs or to check on the property, and it protects the tenant against the landlord being able to walk in at any time.
Key things to think about:
If the landlord is a member of your Group;
- Will they visit the family regularly for delivery of your support? If so, how will you ensure their dual role is made clear to the family?
- In the event of non-payment of rent, how will you manage the conflict of interest between the landlord being a member of your Group but also being the landlord?
- If the family fail to conform to the conditions of their tenancy (e.g. they smoke in the property), how will the landlord navigate this if they find this out during a visit for other purposes? Is there a mechanism you can put in place for this eventuality?
If the landlord is not a member of your Group, they may be more keen to meet the family members than they would with a tenant who is renting the property through other means. This is understandable, the landlord, especially if reducing the rental amount on the property, may be motivated by helping refugees. If this is the case, could you provide an opportunity for the landlord and family to meet as part of your welcome activities? Perhaps a tea within the first few weeks? Do keep in mind that there is a legal relationship between landlord and tenant for anyone who rents property in the UK.
When you are finding accommodation, and discussing the rental arrangements for the family you hope to support, some key things to discuss are:
- Explain the Community Sponsorship scheme, process and the make-up of your Group
- Make clear that all families arriving through Community Sponsorship will be eligible for benefits in the UK
- Explain that the Local Authority will be invited to inspect the property as part of the Home Office conditions
- Explain that your Group needs to find 24 months of accommodation for the family at an affordable rate
- Discuss housing costs and how this will be met – the family will receive housing benefits (although you do not yet know the exact make up of the family), and whether your Group are intending to pay a housing top-up for the family. If this is the case, ask whether the landlord would like this paid directly to them from your Group or given to the family for them to pay. Make sure the family are aware of this arrangement.
- Talk about how the family can communicate with the Landlord. Does the landlord speak other languages? Do they work through a managing agent, will your Group be expected to help the family report any concerns?
- If the landlord asks about the rights of the refugees in renting, explain that they have the same rights as any tenant who is on benefits. Suggest that the Landlord checks with their mortgage provider and Landlord Insurance provider that there is no restriction on them renting. For recommendations of Landlord Insurance providers used by Community Sponsorship Groups, please contact Reset.
We are increasingly seeing Groups purchasing a property, either through an individual investor or via a group investment model. Where this kind of support is available, it is tempting to not charge the family rent for living in the property. We strongly suggest that you avoid this temptation; in order to empower the family and to create realistic expectations they need to be paying rent. If they do not pay rent initially this will come as a huge shock should they decide to move within the UK, and whilst this is a hugely kind gesture, it will not empower the family in the long term. If this is something you are considering, we recommend that you charge the family the amount they will receive for housing benefit and ensure a tenancy agreement is in place.