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Faced with the growing crisis in Ukraine, British people have been asked to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes. At present, nearly 4m people have fled Ukraine and 6.5m have been displaced. So far, over 100,000 British people have offered space in their homes to help house Ukrainian refugees under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Whilst such generosity should be applauded, it is sad to also hear of many people getting caught out, financially, by taking in refugees. One story tells of how many landlords are facing big tax bills because tax laws have not been updated to reflect the Homes for Ukraine scheme (more on this below). As such, we at Cedar House want to help British nationals to navigate the financial planning aspects of taking in refugees.
Below, we offer some thoughts on this important subject – with specific reference to the Ukraine crisis – and we hope you find this content useful. To discuss your own financial plan with us, please contact our team for more information or to access personalised financial advice:
020 8366 4400 or email@example.com
Where will they stay?
The first key question to address, of course, is how much space you have to offer one or more refugees. If you have a spare room in your flat, then you could host at least one person – maybe even two parents and a small child. The Homes for Ukraine scheme requires that you can offer at least 6 months of “stable accommodation”. So, make sure your mortgage repayments are on track, your emergency fund is healthy and you have a predictable income.
The government has not specified that you need to be a homeowner to offer space to refugees, however. So, renters wanting to offer a room should consider their tenancy contract length, and their relationship with their landlord. Your application to the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be vetted by the government, to help determine your suitability as a host, who you can host and how many people.
How will the finances work?
The Homes for Ukraine scheme allows Ukrainian refugees to stay in a British home, rent-free. Naturally, most will not have an income to help cover their expenses when living with you. The government has offered a £350 (tax-free) monthly payment by the government to help pay for these additional costs.
However, consider that this £350 monthly amount is currently only available for 12 months. Also, the payment is fixed regardless of how many people you host. It is possible that the government could extend the payment scheme, but this is not guaranteed. At that point, you will likely need to cover the extra costs yourself if your refugees continue their stay.
Think carefully about your finances before offering your home. It would be very sad to put these people into further instability and uncertainty after fleeing their country. Whilst £350 may sound sufficient to some, you may still need to dig into your own pocket to help cover the extra monthly cost of food, energy, internet, water, travel and leisure. Bear in mind that, here in the UK, living costs are rising and this is likely to put further strain on household budgets.
One thing to note is that any Ukrainian resident prior to 1 January 2022, who is granted a visa under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, will be able to work for three years. They will also have access to public services (e.g. the NHS) and state benefits. These could help ease strain on your own income if your refugees stay for over 12 months.
The finances of taking in a refugee are very important to consider. However, it is also a highly personal decision. Remember, there is no guarantee that refugees will be able to return to Ukraine any time soon; the conflict with Russia could last for a long time (perhaps years). As such, you need to be prepared to host these people for a long time. Or, have a clear deadline which is communicated to them from the outset – that your home is only available for a limited time (e.g. because you are planning to sell it).
Consider speaking to your financial planner about the wider tax implications that might arise from taking in refugees. The Enveloped Dwellings rule, for instance, is currently causing issues with Buy to Let landlords who have placed their properties into limited companies. Take care to not get caught out as you move forwards with good intentions.
Take a moment, also, to think about what it will be like to have other people in your own space. These individuals may speak little/no English, may be carrying significant trauma that affects their behaviour and might have living habits that are significantly different to yours (e.g. hours that they sleep). You may need to be prepared to be a listening ear to someone going through considerable emotional pain. Or, you might need to respect a policy of silence over topics that cannot be talked about. Your guest(s) may want to spend a lot of time at home, or going out. Think about how that might work with your habits and preferences. Also, consider laying down some “house rules” from the very beginning so everyone knows what is/isn’t acceptable.
Helping your child onto the housing ladder is a noble aim. However, make sure you do not inadvertently harm your wealth and finances – or that of your child – without a strong tax plan.
Interested in discussing your financial plan with an experienced financial adviser? Get in touch today to discuss your financial plan with a member of our team here at Cedar House via a free, no-commitment consultation:
020 8366 4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org