Ukrainians being hosted by Britons under the Homes for Ukraine scheme face a “cliff edge” of crumbling support when their placements end, and could be blocked from renting privately, refugee organizations have warned.
They say stringent checks on prospective tenants that demand proof of earnings and other documentation could prove impossible for many refugees to pass.
Opora, a network assisting Ukrainians who have relocated to the UK, said it had already been contacted by families who were being frozen out of the private rental market after failing referencing checks.
Some have been asked for evidence of work or tax history stretching back years despite only having moved here since Putin’s invasion. Even those with stable UK jobs and ample savings who have never been in debt have found themselves stonewalled.
Dmytro Chapovski, a software engineer from Lviv in western Ukraine, and his wife, Polina, a psychotherapist, came to Britain in April as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and have been staying with a couple in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
Chapovski, 33, and his host, Janet Duchesne, contacted 12 agencies across the south-east but were “told point blank by letting agents that they have no chance of letting in in this country”, Duchesne said.
Eventually, an agency in Leighton Buzzard agreed to let the couple a three-bedroom house but despite them meeting the salary requirements, a third-party referencing company turned them down. Although he had seven years of bank statements showing he had never been in debt, he says he was told he needed to provide proof of earnings and tax history in the UK – or 12 months’ rent upfront.
In another case, a Ukrainian family contacted all the agents they could find across south-east London and Kent. Some of the agencies refused to proceed because the family were on universal credit, saying landlord insurance would not allow for occupants on benefits, while others requested a guarantor earning more than £40,000, which they did not have.
While only a small number of refugees have been affected so far, thousands could be hit by the obstacles in the months to come as placements arranged through the Homes for Ukraine scheme come to an end. Sponsors were required to host refugees for a minimum of six months. While places can continue, many will end.
Stanislav Beneš, from the Opora network, urged the government to act now to avert problems, calling for guidance and incentives for landlords and a dedicated guarantor scheme to make it easier for Ukrainians to rent.
Without action, people who fled war face being made homeless, he said. “It will overburden existing resources that are already overstretched, which means more and more people will start falling through the cracks.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said it was “completely unacceptable” that Ukrainian refugees were struggling to rent privately and called on the government to “explore expanding access to private-rent tenancy schemes”, which would provide help with deposits or negotiating with landlords
“We need to see more understanding and compassion for the fact that many Ukrainians will not be able to stump up extortionate deposits or be able to provide payslips from the UK if their job is in their home country,” he said.
Sophie Delamothe, policy and public affairs manager at Generation Rent, a campaign group, said: “There are so many pieces of information that you need to provide that people who’ve just recently come to this country as refugees just might not have access to them.”
The National Residential Landlords Association said some landlords who were keen to support Ukrainian refugees had “encountered barriers” beyond their control, including “when seeking permission from mortgage providers and insurers”.
This comes as official figures reveal that hundreds of Ukrainian families have been left homeless in England after arriving on visas designed to secure them a place to live. Since the end of February, at least 480 Ukrainian families with children and 180 single adults have applied to councils for help with homelessness, the Guardian reported last week.
The cost of renting has risen in recent months. Rents paid by tenants in the UK increased by 2.7% in the 12 months to April, figures from the Office for National Statistics show – but in some parts of London and other big cities the year-on-year rise is as steep as 22% .
A Ministry of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “More than 77,200 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK since Putin’s invasion and the vast majority are staying with sponsors or relatives. We are carefully monitoring this situation and will work across government and with landlords to ensure Ukrainians are receiving the help they need.”