Landlords warned about legal pitfalls of offering properties to Ukrainians

A legal expert has warned that offering anything other than a room in a house to Ukrainian refugees could create a legal “tenancy”.

The government has launched a visa sponsorship scheme, Homes for Ukraine, and more than 100,000 households have so far offered to support a Ukrainian refugee with accommodation.

However Christian Fox at Becket Chambers noted that generous Brits may need to get an HMO licence if they plan to house families in what could be deemed a second household.

He said: “Offering anything other than a room in your own main home, for example an annex or separate property, can inadvertently create a tenancy. It is far better for both parties to understand the way they can extend or terminate the agreement now, rather than risking acrimony or legal action later.

“If the owner of a second home or investment property were to allow several families to stay in a property, it may give rise to the need to register as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) under the Housing Act 2004.

“While we might hope that local authorities would be sympathetic, unless the government scheme allows exemption, then at the very least licensing will need to be investigated with the local council and their views sought.”

While there are fewer legal complications for offering a room, in the long run it could affect property insurance or risk breaching mortgage or lease terms, which hosts would need to clarify with their lender or landlord.

Stacey Stothard

He added: “There are also statutory overcrowding offences under the Housing Act 1985, and it is uncertain, for now at least, if these are waived by the Homes for Ukraine scheme or not.

“As a minimum, hosts would be well advised to contact their mortgage company or landlord and check their insurance cover.”

Skipton Building Society, which offers buy-to-let mortgages, has spoken out in support of its mortgage holders who want to use the Ukraine scheme.

Stacey Stothard, head of sustainability at Skipton Building Society, said: “As a mortgage lender we commit today to any of our customers wanting to offer space in their homes to refugees that we will do everything we can to make this happen irrespective of our lending criteria rules or the terms and conditions our customers signed when taking their Skipton mortgage. This is the right thing for us to do.”

Skipton has donated £50,000 to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Comments 7

  1. “While we might hope that local authorities would be sympathetic, unless the government scheme allows exemption, then at the very least licensing will need to be investigated with the local council and their views sought.”

    It is a pity this has not been explained to the tens of thousands of people who have generously offered their homes to people fleeing from war in Europe.

    Given the approach of many local authorities and the bureaucratic mentality that red tape trumps compassion, those offering their homes should steel themselves for fines and being placed on rogue landlords lists if they do not follow the plethora of rules governing HMOs. Ignorance of the law is no defence.

    For some local authorities this will be an opportunity to top up their funds with fees and penalties paid by people who never thought of themselves as landlords.

  2. I am currently in a position to offer a vacant previously rented property rent free for Ukrainian refugees. However, I want to help out, not be caught out! If you move refugees into your own home they are essentially lodgers and as such don’t have that much in the way of tenant rights and can easily be evicted.
    I think that there needs to be some emergency legislation brought in to protect the interests of people who temporarily donate property free of charge. It cannot be a normal tenancy. If moving refugees in is going to let me in for all the normal hassles of being a PRS landlord, then I would just as soon sell up which was the original plan until the Ukraine crisis happened.
    I have asked my Local Council what their position is on this as I guess they will play a big part in all this as they are getting £10,000 per refugee. I am willing to provide the house rent free but I don’t want to be liable for anything else. Most important, if I don’t want to continue the arrangement after the first 6 months for whatever reason I would want the house back, on the dot in a clean, empty condition.
    I think a lot of well- intentioned people could well be fed up with having strangers no matter how nice they may be sharing their houses for long periods. It’s nice to have friends stay for a few days but most people are glad to get back to normal when they go home.

  3. U two above sum it up. We do the right thing & then Councils & Govt shaft us in 2 years time.
    Look at the Benefit Cap. 2013ish, all of a sudden, women & kids that had lived in the house 10 years had to be evicted.
    Benefit tenants that may damage their house (not my fault), I don’t make them homeless. Newly introduced Selective Licensing forced us to evict.

    I did a post on this:

Leave a Reply