How Landlords can help in the Refugee Crisis

(This is a guest blog by Atia Lokhat-Hafezjee)

UK unlikely to reach target to resettle 20,000 refugees

In 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his Government was committed to resettling 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020. However, the Government has since reported that this target may not be reached unless more local authorities contribute to providing asylum accommodation.

While much of the responsibility lies in the hands of local Government and charitable organisations, private landlords can also have a significant role to play in alleviating the crisis.

What landlords can do

By providing property to rent, landlords can enable local authorities to start the process of resettlement for families from Syria. The families can work from the day they arrive and receive a full range of housing and other benefits.

With longer tenancies, reliable rent payments and motivated, conscientious tenants, letting to refugees is not only easy and cost-effective, it can also help save lives in one of the greatest humanitarian crises of modern times.

Back in January, London landlord Atia Lokhat-Hafezjee held an Open House to demonstrate how landlords can help house Syrian refugees at little cost and great personal reward. Below she explains her experience of housing refugees, and how rewarding it can be.

***As of June, Atia has resettled a second Syrian family in one of her private rental properties in Tottenham using the Government scheme. To read more about her most recent experiences, please visit her blog here. ***

Atia explains her experience of housing a family of Syrian refugees:

 at2

(Preparing the Tottenham home for the family)

It started with a short video clip sent to me a couple of months ago when I discovered that our family letting business could potentially save Syrian lives, while also benefitting financially.

This, combined with my need to help families experiencing similar challenges as I did growing up, as new arrivals in Canada, with parents working hard to make their way in a strange country, is what motivated me.

My first experience of renting to a Syrian family has moved me beyond words and a decision I would never regret, as a landlord who wanted to make a difference.

I was able to help a newly reunited family by giving them a new start, with the help of supportive friends and family.

When Sheghaf, Khaled and their daughter Dania arrived a few weeks ago to rent our flat in Tottenham, I found the experience changed my life as much as theirs.

My own family and I greeted them at the front door of their new home and from that moment onward, I formed a deep friendship with someone who has lived through a terrible trauma, whose positive attitude and outlook about life has been contagious. It has helped us all to see a different perspective on life and its challenges.

Not to mention that on a personal level, I have been able to put all my own skills to good use, as a School Teacher, Foster Care Advisor, Counsellor and now even as a writer!

It has inspired me and my own family to never give up, seeing Khaled and Sheghaf working hard, trying to put down roots.

 

at1

(Dania, Khaled and Sheghaf on the day they arrived in Tottenham)

Khaled, who was a bank manager in Syria is now training to work as a supermarket checkout cashier. Sheghaf, who was an architect and teaching engineering in Aleppo, has already been offered several places to do her PhD and has been hired by a supply teaching agency in schools. Their daughter Dania is only 2-1/2 but she’s already learned some words of English and has won the heart of my 10-year-old daughter.

This has been a terrific opportunity for my children and me to realize our humanitarian duties and also see the benefits to our family letting business.

How would landlords benefit from letting to a Syrian Refugee? 

  • Hassle-free rent paid at Local Housing Allowance rates: Two-year leases are on offer together with assurances of payment of rent.
  • Help on offer from community groups to redecorate and furnish properties and support families’ integration into local communities.
  • Highly motivated tenants – these are not problem families. Syrians escaping the war are determined to build new lives, find work and contribute to the society straight away, just as they lived in Syria.  They are grateful for the opportunity they have been given.
  • Get the satisfaction of knowing, that by letting to a Syrian family you have saved lives and potentially reunited families torn apart by this war.

To find out more about Atia’s experiences in resettling refugees,

follow her blog here.

For more information on the support available for housing refugees please click here.

8 thoughts on “How Landlords can help in the Refugee Crisis

  1. Wonderful idea!
    Now what the Government should do in incentivise LLs to help:
    1. Immediately revoke all tax punishments imposed on LLs since Summer Budget 2015 – especially S24! (Bring back Gordon Brown’s tax regime for LLs!)
    2. Get the banks to provide very low rate BTL mortgages specifically for that purpose, so whatever rate the LA pays is affordable and allows LLs to make some profit.
    Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
    Except that it is not going to happen – LLs are now worse threat to the country that ISIS.
    I am actually surprised that they have an audacity to ask for help (although it may appeal to some very rich LLs with mortgage-free properties).
    But I am sure the big Build-to-Rent institutions so favoured by the Hammond, Gauke and Co. will be queuing up to help!

  2. From my personal perspective, the government wants it all. It is/has taken away allowances which over the next 3/4 years will cost us dearly and yet we are being ‘asked’ to help with the crisis without anything for us. If the government wants this support from real U.K. Landlords, then they must give something back to those landlords because historically, immigrant tenants have created a good deal of stress, rent loss and damage to properties. The picture shows a nice looking family, however media is saying children, young men etc etc. Not so good.

    As a result of the new tax laws, all but one of my houses have now gone. I can no longer afford to run them and wouldn’t put the rents up to the level that would have kept me with level profits.

    I personally rented to such a ‘family’ many years ago through the local authority and when they left the whole kitchen, all the furnishings etc had to be replaced. The drainage system had to be fully flushed out and I was only marginally compensated. I’m sure if pushed, there are many more good landlords who would say the same. A close friend of mine did the same, a reputable family had theirs and their kitchen, carpets had to be replaced and drainage system fully flushed because of the debris and grease that had accumulated in the system. A bad mess. I’m talking decent landlords, not the rip-off merchants.

  3. Thanks for the article. It would be helpful if you could give the steps that a landlord would need to take to offer their properties for refugees.

    1. Hi John,
      Here is an FAQ document link below that our group drew up which is fairly universal. You should first find out whether your council has signed up to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and if not lobby them to do so. Check the Refugee Welcome website https://www.refugees-welcome.org.uk/ and see whether there is a branch in your constituency as they will be actively looking for landlords and working with the council. If no group I would call the Policy Officer at the council as a first point of contact and find out if they are doing the scheme and offer your property.
      https://hfrefugeeswelcome.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Landlords-FAQs_v3.pdf

  4. My husband and I had offered a 6 bedroomed house in Hastings for rent to Syrian families. as we would very much like to make a difference…unfortunately, after several months of discussion, we have been informed that the maximum housing benefit that can be paid for it is £850 per month, as housing benefit only goes up to 3 bedroomed houses, and that is the rate for a 3 bed house in our area. Initially, the council had said that they were sure that there would be funds to increase this amount, as there would definately be extended families needing accommodation and this would be perfect for them. We were not asking the market rate for it – we were happy to go half way, but we simply could not afford to rent it for £850 per month. If anyone knows of a way around this, we would still be willing to rent this house to refugees – please help
    Regards, Rena Richards

  5. Firstly we need the government amd banking system to support the PRS, not to kill it. Then we can cooperate.
    If Katie is rich and mortgage free, it may work for her. But judging the comments, it will not for the majority.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s