Landlords have been warned about the legal pitfalls of offering a home to Ukrainians fleeing the war.
The government'�s newly launched Homes for Ukraine scheme lets individuals and businesses �360 a month to provide a spare room or separate self-contained accommodation for refugees for at least half a year, with volunteers asked to record their interest on a new web page ahead of phase one of the scheme opening on Friday.
Reactions to the initiative from the public have been swift and generous, so much so that the website crashed earlier today after millions of people visited the site to register their interest in the scheme.
However, Christian Fox, a barrister at Becket Chambers who specialises in property law, says that offering anything other than a room in your own main home, such as an annex or separate property, can inadvertently create a tenancy.
He explains: '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.'�
He adds: '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 an HMO.
'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.'�
Fox says that there are also questions around responsibility for property maintenance, insurance and payment for utilities and council tax that need to be considered.
Even just offering a room on a long-term basis can affect property insurance or risk breaching mortgage or lease terms,'� he says. '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 scheme or not.'�