Guidance on offering a clergy home to refugees
We have received enquiries as to how clergy might offer lodging for refugees in their own home. This guidance, on behalf of the Diocesan Board of Finance, is relevant to all clergy occupying board or parsonage housing for information.
Background to the guidance
We have set out to offer guidance that should balance the interests of clergy families and the refugee lodgers. Having a proper legal basis for the arrangement protects the interests of all parties. The Board is eager to give clergy the freedom to make the right decision for themselves and their families within an appropriate legal framework. The Housing Handbook requires you to consult with the Estates Team prior to entering into a Lodging Agreement and this guidance together with the information below gives you the details on how that will work.
Things that you should consider
- Adult refugees are likely to be vulnerable adults and child refugees even more so. If you have children or vulnerable adults already in your household or visiting you will need to take this into account in your decision-making. As well as the general advice issued separately through the Safeguarding Guidance Notes, clergy must consider whether it would be preferable to meet visiting children or others who are vulnerable away from their home. Current advice already suggests for visiting vulnerable individuals or groups, meeting away from the home is preferable, but this is all the more important if hosting a refugee/s. As in every situation, sensible safer working practice arrangements should be followed and a risk assessment conducted to ensure that all who live and visit there do so safely. Please contact DSA Jez Hirst for advice on individual circumstances which prove challenging.
- Licence not a tenancy. The legal form of the Lodging Agreement will be a licence not a tenancy. This is important and you should understand how to avoid creating a tenancy arrangement. (Iain Blythe can provide further advice).
- How long will the arrangements last for? Be clear with your family, us, and the potential refugee about how long you expect the arrangement to last. A licence is not open-ended and is not intended to create a permanent arrangement.
- If you are considering offering accommodation to a refugee then you should email Iain Blythe, copying in Jez Hirst, as soon as possible. It will be helpful to know in advance which room(s) you are proposing to use, for how long, and for how many people.
- Iain will also check to see if there are restrictions on the use of the property, if the room(s) are suitable and if there are any planning or building regulation issues. This should be a quick desktop exercise.
- Once we know that the property is suitable and we have the answers to the initial questions we should be able to give you two things; the outline permission of the DBF, and; a draft Lodging Agreement with a translation.
- Once the Agreement is signed you will need to let us have a copy to finalise the Board’s approval.
Some golden rules
- The Lodging Agreement will be under a legal form called a “Licence” – this is different to a tenancy – and will usually be between you as incumbent and the refugee(s). The DBF has an interest in this but will not usually be a party to the agreement.
- The Agreement provides the refugee with a home in legal terms and offers them some protection and you will need to provide ‘reasonable notice’ to end an agreement.
- The Agreement sets out obligations on both sides, for instance relating to privacy, or provision of utilities and keeping the space clean and tidy.
- The simplest version is a furnished room, plus use of communal areas and facilities. You can also offer extra benefits like cleaning, laundry or meals if you like – but this is entirely up to you. You should include all aspects of what you provide in the agreement.
- It is advisable to notify your home insurance provider.
- If you or members of your household claim benefits you may need to check that these are not impacted.
- It is important that the proposed lodging is fit for purpose.
- Since 2016, the law has required everyone renting out property in England to check whether those they provide housing are legally allowed to live in the UK – regardless of the type of agreement.
If you have a question about a vacant vicarage, please contact Iain Blythe in the first instance. Details of the government scheme are due to be released soon, which appears to be linked to an increase in local authority funding which points to authorities in the area having an important role to play. As soon as we have further information we will update this advice.
Last updated: 14 March 2022