Ukrainian migrant support hub

A gateway for Ukrainian migrants and those who support them to access information, events and services.
Шлюз для доступу до інформації, подій та послуг для українських мігрантів та тих, хто їх підтримує.

Housing guide

What to do when your Homes For Ukraine hosting is coming to an end

You should start making plans at least 2 months before your hosting agreement comes to an end. There are several routes you might explore for your ongoing housing.

Rent from your host

If you have a good relationship with your host, talk with them to see if they are willing to rent to you formally. This will likely be the most straightforward option for you if this is available.

Private rental

You can rent a house either directly from a landlord, or through a letting agent. A letting agent will act on behalf of a landlord, and will take responsibility for showing you houses and arranging contracts. They will usually also manage property repairs and collecting rent.

Houses may be rented including furniture, appliances, or none of these. Usually you will be responsible for taxes and bills yourself, but some landlords will include these in the rent cost.

It’s common for houses to be rented on a 6 or 12 month contract, but month to month agreements are also possible. Rent is usually paid monthly, in advance.

Renting a house can be difficult if you don't have much money, or you're relying on money from the government, or your financial situation isn't stable. Even without these challenges, it will take most people 1 - 2 months to find a house and move in.

1
What to consider before looking

It’s important to consider what you will be able to afford, as landlords will not accept your request if they think you won’t have enough money to keep up with payments. As a guide, take the annual income of everyone who will be living in the property and divide this number by 30. If that number is less than the rent of any property you are interested in, it is unlikely that they will consider you.

Particularly if you’re a single person, you might consider if you are going to find a flat for yourself, or if you would be willing to live in a shared house. Sharing a house will usually be cheaper, particularly for bills such as council tax and broadband.

To rent a property, you will usually need to a deposit once the landlord has accepted your application. The cost of this will be up to 1 months’ rent. At the same time, you will need to pay the first month’s rent. Sometimes you might be able to get help from the council or a charity with paying this deposit, but if you will struggle to pay this, it is better to work out how you will afford this before contacting landlords.

2
Look for properties

Most properties are advertised on the internet on websites such as Zoopla, Rightmove or OpenRent. You should check these regularly to see if new houses are available.

Homes are also advertised on platforms such as Facebook, Gumtree and Nextdoor. These are more likely to be private landlords, and may be more flexible with who they will rent to, compared to letting agents. Be aware that there are scams, and if a property seems too cheap, or they pressurise you to sign, or ask for fees to view a property or prepare a contract, you should get advice before continuing.

Finding a room in a shared property

If you’re willing to live in a house shared with people you don’t know, you can look on websites such as SpareRoom. It can be very frustrating to find a room this way, as popular rooms will be inundated with requests. If there is anything that might make you less desirable to live with – such as not having good English, or having a child, you may be ignored many times.

3
Ask for a viewing

If you find a property that you can afford and which seems suitable for you, contact the landlord or agent and ask for a viewing. Tell them anything relevant about your situation – such as who will be living in the house, where you are getting your income from (benefits or employment), your employment status, your household income and if you have pets. They will usually have rules on who they will rent to, and it can save you a lot of time and frustration if you can find out before you spend time viewing the house. You should also tell them when you are available to look at the property.

If they’re happy to let you visit, they will tell you what time and where to go.

4
Tell the landlord you want the property

If you’re happy with a property you’ve seen, you should contact the letting agent or landlord and tell them you would like to rent it. They will make an initial decision on whether they want to rent to you – this may take a few days.

They will usually do a set of checks to make sure you are suitable, which is called ‘referencing’.

5
Referencing

A reference check is designed to give the landlord confidence that you will pay rent on time and not damage their property. It may include asking you to prove your income, doing a credit check to see if you have failed to keep up with bills or debt payments in the past, and asking for a note from anyone you have rented from in the past to confirm you were a good tenant. The landlord or letting agent will explain what you need to do. You should never be asked to pay for this. It will usually take 1-2 weeks.

How do I prove my right to rent in England?
6
Sign the tenancy agreement and pay the deposit

If you are approved, you will usually need to pay a deposit for the property, and sign a tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is your contract giving you the right to stay in the property, and it will outline your responsibilities and what the landlord must do for you.

Once these are completed successfully, you will be told a move in date, and how you will be given keys.

Yes. There is no need for a paper copy.

What is a deposit?

This deposit provides protection for the landlord if you don’t pay your rent, damage their property, or leave it unclean. The deposit amount will be up to 5 weeks’ rent. Once paid, it will be held by a tenancy deposit scheme. They will keep this money until the end of your tenancy. If you have not damaged the property, and do not owe them money, you will get this deposit back.

They can’t withhold your deposit for normal wear and tear that happens when living in a house, and you can dispute a decision if you don’t think it is fair.

What if I can’t afford the deposit?

You can sometimes get help from the local government, who may be able to offer you a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Some landlords may offer you an alternative to paying a deposit, called a ‘zero deposit option’. 

Where to get help
Birmingham City Council
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
What is zero deposit company?

A zero deposit option is an alternative to paying for a deposit. You will pay a fee that will be less than the deposit amount, but you won’t get it back at the end of the rental. Unless there is no way you can afford the deposit, this is likely a worse option for you.

What if they refuse me?

If a landlord refuses to rent to you for financial reasons, it might be possible for you to suggest solutions. If you have large amounts of savings, offering to pay the first 3 or 6 months’ rent up-front may be an acceptable solution for the landlord. If you know someone who is financially stable and would be willing to cover your rent if you were ever unable to pay it, you could ask them if they would stand as a guarantor. Most landlords would only accept a guarantor who lives in the UK.

If you can’t find a solution that is acceptable to the landlord, there is little you can do other than find another property.

What is a rent guarantor?

Your landlord might ask you to find a 'guarantor' before they offer you the tenancy. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay rent instead of you, if you don't pay the rent yourself. The landlord might ask for this if you have a low income, don't have a history of renting in the UK, or don't have a credit history.

If you have a relative or close friend who has a good credit history in the UK, you could ask them if they’re willing to do this.

Another option is to find an organisation who will act as guarantor for you. Some companies, such as RentGuarantor and Housing Hand, charge a monthly subscription for this service.

If you can't find a guarantor, the landlord might agree to offer you the tenancy if you pay for rent in advance.

What is a rent deposit scheme?

This is a loan or grant that helps people who are struggling to afford the deposit to rent a house.

What is a tenancy deposit scheme?

This is a system which protects the money you pay as a deposit when renting a house.

How do I prove my right to rent in England?
Find another host

It is possible that you may be able to find a new host - you can look via the same places as you found your initial host. But be aware that there are not many hosts with spaces, and it will probably be very difficult to find a new host.

Council / social housing

Social housing is lower-cost housing, which is affordable even if your only income is benefits. Social housing is run by the local council or a non-profit organisation called a housing association. There can be long waiting lists for these properties, so this option is not always possible.

Application process

You will need to contact the council and go through their application process.

Will I be eligible?

Ukrainian refugees are eligible for social housing. If you are unsure of your status, you might want to get immigration advice.

How long does it take to get social housing?

The council will score your application, particularly looking at factors that may make you a priority. How long it takes will depend on your score, and the current number of applications. For many people, it can take years to get housing this way.

Do the council give higher priority to some people?

Some groups of people do have higher priority. These groups include people who are homeless, escaping violence, living in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions, or who need to move because of a disability.

What should I do if I haven't been able to find a solution?

If you think you are about to become homeless, or are now homeless, you should contact the council's housing department. You can do this up to 56 days before you think you may become homeless. They may not be able to find you housing, so you shouldn't rely on this as a solution.

Is there financial support available?

There is a grant for people moving out from their Homes for Ukraine hosts and into their own accommodation. This grant is to cover the costs of moving and getting started in your new accommodation.

Renting a home

Renting a house can be difficult if you don't have much money, or you're relying on money from the government, or your financial situation isn't stable. Even without these challenges, it will take most people 1 - 2 months to find a house and move in.

1
What to consider before looking

It’s important to consider what you will be able to afford, as landlords will not accept your request if they think you won’t have enough money to keep up with payments. As a guide, take the annual income of everyone who will be living in the property and divide this number by 30. If that number is less than the rent of any property you are interested in, it is unlikely that they will consider you.

Particularly if you’re a single person, you might consider if you are going to find a flat for yourself, or if you would be willing to live in a shared house. Sharing a house will usually be cheaper, particularly for bills such as council tax and broadband.

To rent a property, you will usually need to a deposit once the landlord has accepted your application. The cost of this will be up to 1 months’ rent. At the same time, you will need to pay the first month’s rent. Sometimes you might be able to get help from the council or a charity with paying this deposit, but if you will struggle to pay this, it is better to work out how you will afford this before contacting landlords.

2
Look for properties

Most properties are advertised on the internet on websites such as Zoopla, Rightmove or OpenRent. You should check these regularly to see if new houses are available.

Homes are also advertised on platforms such as Facebook, Gumtree and Nextdoor. These are more likely to be private landlords, and may be more flexible with who they will rent to, compared to letting agents. Be aware that there are scams, and if a property seems too cheap, or they pressurise you to sign, or ask for fees to view a property or prepare a contract, you should get advice before continuing.

Finding a room in a shared property

If you’re willing to live in a house shared with people you don’t know, you can look on websites such as SpareRoom. It can be very frustrating to find a room this way, as popular rooms will be inundated with requests. If there is anything that might make you less desirable to live with – such as not having good English, or having a child, you may be ignored many times.

3
Ask for a viewing

If you find a property that you can afford and which seems suitable for you, contact the landlord or agent and ask for a viewing. Tell them anything relevant about your situation – such as who will be living in the house, where you are getting your income from (benefits or employment), your employment status, your household income and if you have pets. They will usually have rules on who they will rent to, and it can save you a lot of time and frustration if you can find out before you spend time viewing the house. You should also tell them when you are available to look at the property.

If they’re happy to let you visit, they will tell you what time and where to go.

4
Tell the landlord you want the property

If you’re happy with a property you’ve seen, you should contact the letting agent or landlord and tell them you would like to rent it. They will make an initial decision on whether they want to rent to you – this may take a few days.

They will usually do a set of checks to make sure you are suitable, which is called ‘referencing’.

5
Referencing

A reference check is designed to give the landlord confidence that you will pay rent on time and not damage their property. It may include asking you to prove your income, doing a credit check to see if you have failed to keep up with bills or debt payments in the past, and asking for a note from anyone you have rented from in the past to confirm you were a good tenant. The landlord or letting agent will explain what you need to do. You should never be asked to pay for this. It will usually take 1-2 weeks.

How do I prove my right to rent in England?
6
Sign the tenancy agreement and pay the deposit

If you are approved, you will usually need to pay a deposit for the property, and sign a tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is your contract giving you the right to stay in the property, and it will outline your responsibilities and what the landlord must do for you.

Once these are completed successfully, you will be told a move in date, and how you will be given keys.

Yes. There is no need for a paper copy.

What is a deposit?

This deposit provides protection for the landlord if you don’t pay your rent, damage their property, or leave it unclean. The deposit amount will be up to 5 weeks’ rent. Once paid, it will be held by a tenancy deposit scheme. They will keep this money until the end of your tenancy. If you have not damaged the property, and do not owe them money, you will get this deposit back.

They can’t withhold your deposit for normal wear and tear that happens when living in a house, and you can dispute a decision if you don’t think it is fair.

What if I can’t afford the deposit?

You can sometimes get help from the local government, who may be able to offer you a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Some landlords may offer you an alternative to paying a deposit, called a ‘zero deposit option’. 

Where to get help
Birmingham City Council
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
What is zero deposit company?

A zero deposit option is an alternative to paying for a deposit. You will pay a fee that will be less than the deposit amount, but you won’t get it back at the end of the rental. Unless there is no way you can afford the deposit, this is likely a worse option for you.

What if they refuse me?

If a landlord refuses to rent to you for financial reasons, it might be possible for you to suggest solutions. If you have large amounts of savings, offering to pay the first 3 or 6 months’ rent up-front may be an acceptable solution for the landlord. If you know someone who is financially stable and would be willing to cover your rent if you were ever unable to pay it, you could ask them if they would stand as a guarantor. Most landlords would only accept a guarantor who lives in the UK.

If you can’t find a solution that is acceptable to the landlord, there is little you can do other than find another property.

What is a rent guarantor?

Your landlord might ask you to find a 'guarantor' before they offer you the tenancy. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay rent instead of you, if you don't pay the rent yourself. The landlord might ask for this if you have a low income, don't have a history of renting in the UK, or don't have a credit history.

If you have a relative or close friend who has a good credit history in the UK, you could ask them if they’re willing to do this.

Another option is to find an organisation who will act as guarantor for you. Some companies, such as RentGuarantor and Housing Hand, charge a monthly subscription for this service.

If you can't find a guarantor, the landlord might agree to offer you the tenancy if you pay for rent in advance.

What is a rent deposit scheme?

This is a loan or grant that helps people who are struggling to afford the deposit to rent a house.

What is a tenancy deposit scheme?

This is a system which protects the money you pay as a deposit when renting a house.

How do I prove my right to rent in England?
Council / social housing

Social housing is lower-cost housing, which is affordable even if your only income is benefits. Social housing is run by the local council or a non-profit organisation called a housing association. There can be long waiting lists for these properties, so this option is not always possible.

Application process

You will need to contact the council and go through their application process.

Will I be eligible?

Ukrainian refugees are eligible for social housing. If you are unsure of your status, you might want to get immigration advice.

How long does it take to get social housing?

The council will score your application, particularly looking at factors that may make you a priority. How long it takes will depend on your score, and the current number of applications. For many people, it can take years to get housing this way.

Do the council give higher priority to some people?

Some groups of people do have higher priority. These groups include people who are homeless, escaping violence, living in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions, or who need to move because of a disability.

Your responsibilities as a tenant

You can find information here:

The end of your tenancy

If you have a fixed term tenancy (for example, an agreement for a 6 or 12 month period), you should talk to your landlord about what you want to do when it comes to an end. You should do this around 2 months before the end.

You may want to stay in the property. If so, they may offer a new contract, or suggest moving to a rolling monthly agreement. At the end of each year, it is normal for the landlord to add a small increase in the rent, which is usually a few percent.

If you want to move out, you will need to tell them in advance. Most contracts require you to give them 1 month’s notice.

Moving out

When you move out there are some things you need to do:

1
Tell utility companies and the council

A month or more before moving out, contact your utility companies and your council to tell them your leaving date. This is so that you stop paying for utilities and council tax when you leave.

2
Plan how you will move your possessions

If you’re moving house and have a small amount of possessions to take, you might be able to move them in a car or a large taxi. If you plan to move with a taxi, you should phone a local company and explain that you are moving house.

If you have more possessions, you can hire a van to drive yourself. There are also ‘man with a van’ services which include a van and a driver. You can find these services via Google or platforms such as Gumtree. If you have more possessions than will fit in a van, you’ll probably need to use a removals company.

What if I need to store my belongings somewhere?

Self storage companies provide storage space that you can rent. You will pay based on how much space you need, and how long you need it for.

3
Clean the property

Clean the house and garden so that you leave it in a similar state to how it was when you moved in. This is so the landlord doesn't charge you a cleaning fee.

4
Collect evidence on the day you leave

Take photos that show the condition of the property. This could be useful as evidence to help you get your deposit back.

Also, check the electric and gas meters, and take a photo showing the numbers.

5
Give the keys back to the landlord

As you leave the property, make sure everything is locked, and return the keys to the landlord.

6
Update your postal address with organisations

When you have a new address, update your personal details with organisations that send post to you. This might include banks or your mobile phone provider. You can usually do this by signing in to an online account, but you could also go into a branch to tell them about your address change.

If you have a UK driving licence or own a vehicle, you need to give your new address to the DVLA.

What about mail that’s gone to my old address?

If there is mail that's already been posted to your old address, you could try asking the tenants or landlord if you can collect it.

To prevent this from happening, Royal Mail offers a mail redirection service. This will automatically forward any mail from your old address to your new one. There's a fee for this service.

7
Get the deposit back

The landlord will inspect the property after you have moved out. If you have not cleaned the property properly or there are any damages, the landlord can deduct these costs from your deposit. If the costs are higher than the deposit they will send you a bill for any additional costs.

You can dispute any of these charges if you think they are unfair. Any remaining money will be paid back to you from the tenancy deposit scheme company your landlord uses. The tenancy deposit scheme company will request your bank details, and you will normally get the money within 10 days.

What should I do if I don’t agree with charges the landlord has made?

The first thing to try is to talk to the landlord to see if you can reach an agreement together. 

If you aren’t able to agree, then you can contact your tenancy deposit protection scheme, who offer a free dispute resolution service. 

Managing utilities, bills and tax
Heating and electricity

Your property will have an electricity connection, and may also have a gas connection for heating, cooking and hot water. There are lots of companies who provide these services, and your electricity supplier may be different from your gas supplier.

There are two ways to pay for electricity and gas. If you have a prepayment meter, you will need to regularly add money to keep it working. 

If you have a credit meter, you will get a monthly bill from your supplier.


electricity meter

What should I do when I move in?

You should find the electricity meter and gas meter and take a note of the numbers. If you are on a credit meter, you should then contact your suppliers and tell them you have moved in, and give them the current readings. They will tell you how you will pay your bills.

What happens if I don’t pay my bills?

If you’re on a prepayment meter and you run out of credit, the gas or electricity will not work until you add more credit.

If you're on a credit meter, these services will not be turned off if you miss a payment, but if you repeatedly miss payments your supplier will likely move you onto a prepayment meter.

You can get free financial advice if you can't pay for your bills.

Where to get help
Search for support options
What is a prepayment meter?

This is a device in your home that measures the amount of electricity or gas you use. You need to pay in advance, and will need to regularly add money to keep it working.

Water

Each region of the UK has a single water company. Your house will have a water meter which will charge you according to the amount of water you use.

It is safe to drink the water from the tap anywhere in the UK.

What should I do when I move in?

You should find the water meter and take a note of the numbers. You should then contact your supplier and tell them you have moved in, and give them the current reading. They will tell you how you will pay your water bill.

What happens if I don’t pay my water bill?

You cannot have your water cut off if you don't pay your bill, so if you have no money, you should prioritize paying your gas or electricity bill.

You can get free financial advice if you can't pay for your bills.

Where to get help
Search for support options
Council tax

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax on your property if you’re 18 or over. This tax is paid to the council, who will usually request payment for the annual amount in 10 monthly installments.

When you move in to a house, you should contact the council to let them know who is living in the property.

Check you're paying the right amount of Council Tax

In some situations the amount of Council Tax you need to pay is less. For example, if you're living on your own, or you're a student, or a carer lives in your home. These are called 'discounts and exemptions', and you can read about how they work in this Money Saving Expert guide.

You can apply for a discount or exemption directly through your council.

Council Tax discounts for people with a Homes for Ukraine visa

If everyone that lives in your house is on a Homes for Ukraine visa, you may be able to get a 50% discount on your Council Tax on the basis that holders of this visa are ‘disregarded’ for Council Tax. Some councils have information about this on their website, but not all of them do. If everyone in your house is on this visa but your council hasn’t given you this discount, contact them to ask for it. There’s more information about how what you can say to them here:

Handling changes in circumstances

If your situation changes such as moving house, or who you live with, or starting full-time education, you should contact your council to check that you're paying the correct amount of Council Tax.

If you're receiving Council Tax Support or Council Tax Reduction, you also need to tell the council about changes in your income, including changes to the welfare benefits you receive, as well as any changes to your employment status.

What happens if I don’t tell them?

You may miss out on a reduction to your Council Tax. If the change in your circumstances means that you need to pay more Council Tax, when the council find out you will have to pay them back for any amount. If they believe you have been intentionally dishonest, you could be in legal trouble.

How much do I need to pay?

The amount will depend on the value of your property, which is calculated by the council. You can find out on their website how much you should pay.

Can I reduce the amount of Council Tax I pay?

The council run different schemes that can reduce the amount of Council Tax you pay. You can apply for these directly yourself, or look for help from support organisations.

Council Tax Reduction

If you're on a low income or you're claiming certain benefits, you may be able to get your Council Tax bill reduced.

This is called 'Council Tax Reduction' or 'Council Tax Support'.

Where to get help
Birmingham City Council
Council Tax Support
Pay your Council Tax over 12 monthly instalments

Most people pay their yearly Council Tax bill over 10 monthly instalments. If you change this to be 12 monthly instalments, it will make the amount you pay each month a little smaller. You can ask your council how to do this.

Where to get help
Search for support options
What should I do if I can’t pay my Council Tax?

The first thing to do is to tell your council to say that you might miss a payment. If you do this, they may offer to let you pay late, or increase future payments to make up for a missed payment. In some cases you could get a reduction in the amount you have to pay.

If you don’t tell them, there can be serious consequences including the potential of going to prison.

Internet connection

There are many providers of broadband that you can choose from. When you move into a property, you will need to choose a supplier which you can do via one of the price comparison sites such as USwitch.

Most services will take 2-3 weeks to be installed. All suppliers will send you a router for free, so you don't need any more equipment to get set up. An alternative that will be much faster to get set up is a 5G hub, but that is not available in all areas

Be aware that most services have a contract period between 12 - 24 months, and you will have to pay a penalty if you want to leave the supplier early.

Mobile phones & SIM cards
Getting a phone

You can look for second hand phones on websites such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay.

You can buy new phones from high street shops or online. There are many companies that will offer you a monthly contract which will give you both a new phone and inclusive calls, data and SMS costs. Whilst this can be appealing, it is usually the most expensive solution compared to buying your own phone and SIM card.

Getting a SIM card

You can get either a ‘pay as you go’ SIM where you will have to buy credit for your phone and then only pay for the calls, SMS and data you use. Alternatively, you can get a contract where you will pay a monthly amount and use your phone as much as you like within their monthly limits.

Websites such as USwitch can help you find the best deal. 

Are there free SIM cards?

There are several charities providing free SIM cards to refugees. For most of these, you will need to apply by asking a local refugee support charity.

Can I change SIM card and keep the same phone number?

You can keep your current phone number when you change your SIM card. To do this, contact your current provider and ask for a PAC code. When you have this, contact your new provider and give them your PAC code. They will tell you what time and date your old phone number will be switched over.

Where can I buy a SIM card?

You can buy SIM cards online, in convenience stores or supermarkets, or from mobile phone shops.

Changing your phone’s country settings

Some apps will only be available if your phone is set to the UK. The way you do this depends on whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone (iOS).

Problems with the property or appliances

If you're renting and an appliance stops working, or there's a problem such as damp, it will usually be the landlord's responsibility to repair it. Contact them and explain the problem. It's best to use email as this will make sure you have a record of your complaint.

If you own the property you can find a trades person online using platforms such as Checkatrade

What should I do if I am not happy with the landlord's response?

There are organisations who can provide you with free information and advice on your rights and what to do.

Where to get help
Search for support options
What should I do if I smell gas?

You should open the windows and leave your house immediately. You should then call the National Gas Emergency Service number on 0800 111 999, who will send out a gas engineer.

Rats, mice and insects

If you have pests in your home, you should first contact the landlord if you are renting.

If you have a rat problem, the local council will solve this for free.

Bins and recycling

Household waste will be collected regularly by the council from outside your house. You will be provided different types of bins for recycling and regular waste. The council’s website will provide you information on what type of waste goes in which bins. You will need to move your bin onto the street on the correct day to ensure it is collected. You can find the correct day on the council website.

If you have larger items that won’t fit into your bins, you must either take these to a recycling area, or contact the council who will arrange for these to be removed. It is illegal to leave your rubbish or unwanted items in a public space.

Bins
Am I allowed to burn my rubbish?

If you have a garden, you are allowed to light fires. You may not do this if it would cause a safety issue, or may be a nuisance to your neighbours.

Noise

You are allowed to make a reasonable level of noise within your home, such as playing music or using tools from time to time. You must however do so only within reasonable hours, so do not do this late at night or early in the morning.

If you have neighbours who are repeatedly creating excessive noise, you can report them to the council.