Like so many people around the world, we’ve been deeply saddened by the far-reaching and devastating impacts of the war in Ukraine. Members of the Habito team have been raising money and organising donations of essentials for fleeing refugees. Now there’s a new way you can help.

The government has launched a new scheme, called Homes for Ukraine, which will allow UK residents to share their homes and offer unoccupied properties to Ukrainian refugees.

How many people need homes?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, more than 2.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes in Ukraine, causing a refugee crisis.

Before the Homes for Ukraine scheme was announced, only those fleeing the conflict who had family connections in the UK were able to make an application via the Ukraine Family Scheme. Other visas are available but application centres in Ukraine are closed. Michael Gove confirmed that, based on these rules, only about 3,000 refugees have been granted visas, but that the new scheme could see tens of thousands of Ukrainians being welcomed into homes in the UK.

Scheme details

Want to get involved? Here’s everything we know so far:

  • Hosts will receive £350 per month from the government as a ‘thank you’
  • You need to be able to commit to housing an individual or family for at least 6 months
  • Refugees don’t need to know their host family in advance - the government will match people to suitable homes
  • Both sponsors and refugees will be vetted to keep everyone safe
  • Ukrainians on the scheme will be given leave to remain in the UK for three years, with the right to work and access public services.

You can find out more and register your interest in becoming a host on the Homes for Ukraine website.

But, before you do, there are some things you should consider.

Do I need to let my mortgage lender know?

Yes. Usually, if you have a residential mortgage and decide that you want to let out your home for a specific period of time (e.g a year), you need to ask your lender for a “consent to let” mortgage.

During the consent to let period, lenders will usually raise the interest rate (because renting out your home means more risk for them).

This scheme has hit the mortgage industry out of the blue, so - like lots of other lenders - we're still in the process of figuring out how we can support our customers who want to open up their homes to people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine

It’s possible that lenders could waive their usual policy of raising your interest rate if you offer your home to Ukrainian refugees. This decision will be down to individual lenders though, so it's important to check with your lender before you commit to hosting people in your home. If you apply, you should let your lender know as soon as you’ve been accepted onto the scheme to make sure you have their permission.

Will this affect my mortgage application?

If you’re currently in the process of applying for a mortgage and buying a home, it might be wise to hold off registering to accommodate refugees until after you’ve completed your purchase and settled in.

We try to make buying your home as quick and painless as possible, but it still takes the average homebuyer 3-6 months to get the keys to their new home - and there are lots of factors that can speed up (or slow down) your journey.

Can I still help if I rent?

If you rent your home and you’d like to apply for the scheme, you will need your landlord’s permission. Most tenancy agreements have a clause which prevents residents from subletting any part of their home without written permission from their landlord. So, if you’d like to open up your spare bedroom to Ukrainian refugees, make sure you speak to your landlord about it sooner rather than later.

How can landlords help?

The scheme allows sponsors to offer entire homes - such as airbnbs, holiday homes, and buy-to-let properties - to families in need. However, they must be offered rent-free (other than the £350 per month you will receive directly from the government).

Any other watch-outs?

Like with your mortgage lender, if you decide to apply you should let your home insurance provider know as soon as you are accepted onto the scheme. Your insurance cover could be invalidated if you let extra people move into your home without notifying your policy provider.

Further support

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council has also warned that sponsors and refugees will need lots of support from the government in order to make the scheme a success:

“These people are going to be highly traumatised and disoriented and you can’t just put them in people’s homes without any expert casework support.

“It’s a bit like asking people to become foster carers without having a social worker in place. There needs to be good quality specialist support otherwise it risks relationships breaking down. In the long term they will need their own stable accommodation as they may not be able to return to their homeland for a few years.”

The scheme has only recently been announced, so hopefully more details about ongoing support for sponsors and refugees will be released soon. For now, Michael Gove has confirmed that local authorities will receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee for support services.

The upshot

The decision to host people in your home for the long-term, while also contending with a potential language barrier and the after-effects of trauma, isn’t one you should make lightly. However, if you have the space and, most importantly, the time and inclination to help Ukrainian refugees, Habito, alongside other mortgage lenders, are supportive of the scheme.

We don’t yet know some of the finer details around the scheme; for example if it is open to those who have shared ownership properties, or which, if any individual lenders, make the decision to impose ‘consent to let’ fees. We’ll keep this blog post updated as and when we get more clarity on the details.