Want to make a big difference? Rent your property to a refugee family!

14 May 2019
Ffion Wyn Evans

”It’s such an easy thing to do really!” 

Migrants Organise works with refugees to rebuild their lives here in the UK. One barrier to resettling more refugees to the UK is finding landlords willing to rent to refugees, could you help us? 

We’re looking for property owners like Clare Burnett, to provide housing for newly arrived refugee families. Can you help? 

How it works 

Clare is a London-based artist, she rents her flat to two young  women who have been resettled to the UK through a refugee protection programme. Clare recently spoke to us about her role as a landlady and what the process is like. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I live in Hammersmith, but I was brought up in France so when ‘the Jungle’  still existed I went over to Calais. I went because I didn’t like the tone of the immigration debate really.  Refugees Welcome movement  was being set up by Citizens UK so I got involved with that when I came back. 

How did that experience influence into your decision to offer your property to refugees?

We are very lucky to have a flat that we rent out long-term in West London and so when the tenants left, I realised I’d  been trying to persuade people in Hammersmith to rent out their houses to refugees. So, I better put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and actually do it myself.  

What did the process of renting to refugees entail before their arrival?

I worked with a contact at the local council, at Migrants Organise and a local volunteer group RBKC Refugees Welcome. This  was very helpful, they made it very easy. They gave me a deposit to reserve the flat. So from the moment I said ‘let’s go,’ I was paid a holding rent so we didn’t have it empty for two months…so they covered that period. I didn’t have to pay  Estate Agent fees. 

I’m renting it at Local Housing Allowance, which is less than market value. Obviously there is a difference in my income but I treat it like a charitable donation, really. It’s not nearly as big a difference as you would think.

What has your relationship with your refugee tenants been like since they arrived?

They are so lovely. The Refugees Welcome group RBKC Welcome Committee and the case workers provided to them have done all the work really to support them, but socially I’ve seen them. They’re really lovely so I see them occasionally.  

Can you elaborate on this support you have received from volunteers, the Council, etc.?

The Refugees Welcome Committee really helped me with getting the flat ready. I had all the basic stuff in there already, but getting extra alarms and different things like that built into the whole flat. The volunteers made it possible because otherwise I couldn’t have really afforded that. 

They also sorted out the plumbers and electricians and sourced soft furnishings and things- a godsend. They basically took the load of it from me and have been since, really. They’ve been the first point of call for the tenants if there were problems.  There haven’t been really, there were just a couple of things straight after they moved in.

What has been the most challenging aspect of this process? What has been the most rewarding?

The most rewarding is knowing that two people who were in a terrible situation have ended up here in a safe flat. That’s fantastic! It’s such an easy thing to do really!

To be honest it hasn’t really been challenging for me. They’ve had challenges, but I haven’t had challenges.  

How has this experience been different than your other work supporting refugees?  

In some ways it’s easier, it’s less hands on I suppose. In some ways I’m the beneficiary, obviously I do receive rent, so I am a beneficiary from the system.  

Does renting a property to a refugee family require a background of supporting refugees?   

If you’ve got a flat, it’s an incredibly satisfying way to support. It’s been managed really well. They’ve been really supportive, sensitive…I would really recommend it to all people. There is not much you do where you can dramatically change someone’s life with very little personal loss…It’s a really easy way of making a dramatic difference. It’s been really satisfying.  

How is renting to refugees through this scheme different than renting to anybody else?

It’s a lot less complicated in a lot of ways, because the Refugees Welcome Committee  has been, in a way, the intermediaries. They’re absolutely lovely tenants, they’re very un-demanding to the point where I have to check if they need anything because they don’t ask for anything. It’s really nice to…do something with it that has some purpose.

Would you rent to refugees again?

Yes, I definitely would do it again!

 

Migrants Organise and RBKC Refugees Welcome Committee is looking for housing in the West London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. If you have a property, or can help us spread the word (e.g. help us put posters, leaflets up in the area) or contact any helpful people- we want to hear from you.

Contact ffion@migrantsorganise.org

rbkcrefugeeswelcome@gmail.com

Thank you to Migrants Organise volunteer, Erin Mysogland for preparing and editing this blog.

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