Landlords urged to ‘release’ properties for Ukraine rentals

IN A further attempt to help Ukrainian refugees move into the rental market, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) is creating new ‘referencing packs’ to help the new arrivals, while also urging landlords to consider releasing properties to let.

This is an attempt by TWBC to combat a “significant” shortage of rental properties, which has left many Ukrainians stuck with host families rather than moving into rented accommodation.

Following the outbreak of the Ukraine war last year, the first Ukrainians arrived locally in March 2022, and there have been around 400 arrivals under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ (HfU) visa scheme, including children.

The HfU scheme, which allows residents to sponsor unrelated Ukrainians, has run longer than the initially expected six months, and there are barriers to people moving on.

According to statistics from TWBC, to date the Council has supported 44 households into private rented accommodation under the HfU scheme, with a further 27 households having moved into private rented accommodation without support from the Council.

In addition, 24 households have been re-matched with another host due to their existing hosting arrangement being unable to continue.

Martin Wilson, a Support Worker with the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) Ukraine team told the Times: “There is a significant shortage of rental properties available, and not only does this drive rents up, but it means there is real competition in the market; often meaning that a number of people offer to rent each property.

“The rental market is really competitive. And if they are competing with five, 10, 15 others [for the property], without a history of renting, that doesn’t make you the most competitive tenant,” he acknowledged.

“In particular, there is an urgent need for one to three-bedroom properties costing between £800 and £1,500 per month.”

There is an overall a shortage of appropriate rental properties, agreed Becky Moran of TN Lettings: “If we are talking about mainly two-bed properties, there is not a huge number of them around,” she explained.

Meanwhile, any idea of families banding together to rent a larger house would “put off” landlords, she said, explaining: “With too many people in a house, wear and tear becomes an issue.”

Mr Wilson said the Council was urging landlords to contact them directly, to rent to Ukrainians on a market-rent basis.

Ukrainian applicants will now be furnished with ‘referencing packs’ put together by the Council, aimed at helping the new tenants overcome their lack of rental history.

“Prospective tenants are offered with full referencing and a financial affordability statement,” he explained, stressing: “They [the landlords] are getting a commercial rent.

“No one is asking for anything other than rental on these terms.”

Cllr Hugo Pound, who holds the Housing and Planning portfolio, also confirmed: “There is no policy [for the Council] to underwrite rents at the moment.”

A tiny bump in available property will come courtesy of a TWBC plan to purchase around 15 homes for social rent (see the Times, March 29).

Forty per cent of funds come from the central government’s Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF), and the remaining 60 per cent of funds – £3.2million – are from Section 106 developer contributions held by TWBC.

Cllr Pound said the Council was “currently working with” social housing providers, which have the expertise, resources and economies of scale to acquire suitable properties.

The properties would be two- to three-bedroom dwellings and “at least one or two four-bed properties”, and would be located “near services, schools and support”, he said.

“They derive huge support from their own national community, so they will not be put out in the villages.”

Although initially allocated to Ukrainian and Afghan refugees under the terms of the LAHF, the properties will eventually form part of TWBC’s general social housing stock.

Landlords can find out more about letting properties to the Council by contacting:

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