*During Covid-19 measures, Groups are strongly advised to not sign any tenancy agreements or make a financial commitment for housing for Community Sponsorship.*
You will need to obtain accommodation that is of a good and adequate standard and available at a sustainable cost for the family. The Home Office will need to be satisfied that it is suitable, and your Local Authority may wish to inspect it before they give their consent to your application.
You will have carried out a huge amount of work to find appropriate accommodation for a family. However, there is always the possibility that once refugees arrive, they may not be happy with aspects of the accommodation and may ask for changes to be made. Some of these issues may be due to cultural differences, some may be due to having high expectations of accommodation in the UK, and some may simply be personal preference. As a group, you should be prepared to answer questions or concerns that the family raise, but it’s worth keeping in mind that they are unlikely to understand the work that has taken place to find the property and you should try not to take criticism or concern personally.
Changes to Accommodation
If you own the property, it is up to you as a group to decide which changes you are willing to make. If the property is rented privately or via a Housing Association, then it will be for the landlord to decide, you may need to work with refugees to manage their expectations around this, making it clear what is and isn’t possible.
The exception to this is that if a member of the family has a physical or mental health condition that requires adaptations to the property, you may be legally required to make them. The precise nature of adaptations will depend on their needs. If you feel you may be in this situation, then do look for support from Reset or your Local Authority. The Local Authority may be able to apply for funding to the Home Office to pay for adaptations, if an occupational therapist has stated they are required.
Listed below are some common housing issues that can arise with resettled refugees. Remember that not all refugees will be concerned with these issues. As always, it is best to speak directly to the family you are supporting and be guided by them, but you may find it helpful to consider the following points.
Women who wear a headscarf for reasons of religion or modesty may not be comfortable removing this inside their home if they feel people can see them from outside. Also, some women who dress modestly or conservatively outside the home may prefer to dress differently when they are at home with their family, so long as they cannot be seen from outside. For this reason, many women request net curtains, blinds, or frosted windows so that they can dress how they wish whilst in their own home.
This is a relatively easy problem to solve; many landlords may be willing to install net curtains, and if not, they may be willing for the group or the refugees to purchase and install them themselves.
Refugees may request carpets in the property if it does not already have them. There may be various reasons for this, and refugees can explain these themselves better than we can, but our experience is that they prefer carpets because they are warmer and these are more common in the Middle East.
This is a more difficult request, and ultimately it will be the landlord’s decision whether they are willing to install carpets. Many will not, and they are entitled to make that decision (unless any family members have physical or mental health conditions that require them, again if you are in this situation then do contact us for support). If the landlord is not willing to install carpets, then you or the refugees could consider purchasing rugs instead.
In our experience, we’ve found that discussing this issue can take up a considerable amount of time in the early days and weeks after arrival. We would advise that, wherever possible, any requests are directed to the landlord, and once they have made a final decision that all group members share this message consistently to the refugees, and explain what options are available to them.
Many refugees will request a hose attachment fitted to the toilet, used for washing in a similar way as a bidet, as this is common in Middle Eastern households.
Again, it will be the landlord’s decision whether they are willing to install this. In some cases, they may not be willing to pay for it but allow it to be installed by a qualified plumber if the group or the refugees are willing to pay for this. You can also suggest to families that they could instead use jugs for this function.
Setting up utilities
As part of house preparations, you will need to make sure that there are credit and not top up utility meters. You can read this resource to find out the best way to do that and learn more about empowering approach to managing utility bills.
In the future, the refugees you are supporting may choose to move to new accommodation. If you, or the landlord, have agreed to some of their requests to change aspects of the property you should make them aware if this is unusual and they may not receive this from other landlords. Otherwise, they could move to unsuitable accommodation in future with the mistaken belief that they can ask the landlord to make the changes they require. Equally, if the landlord is unable to make the requested changes, you can explain that this is a common response in the UK.
You may also find it useful to look at our advice on the household items to provide in the property.