How to access and pay for housing as a refugee

Refugees are able to apply for help with housing in the UK, from money to pay for rent or a deposit to a place to stay. Here we explain the kind of support available, who can apply, how much can be paid, and where to go for it.

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As a refugee you’ll be able to access help with housing costs

If you’re given refugee status in England, any asylum support you’ve been receiving will stop within 28 days and if you were given a home as part of this, you’ll need to move unless you’re living with friends or family members. 

You’ll also be given permission to work in the UK and have access to the benefit system.

As a refugee you can also open a bank account and be given a National Insurance (NI) number, which will allow you to work and receive benefits if you need them such as Universal Credit if you’re eligible. 

Your NI number will usually be automatically sent out after you’ve received refugee status. 

How to get on the local housing register

Your local council or housing office is the first place to contact if you need help finding somewhere to live or you’re at risk of being homeless. 

You can apply to go onto the council’s waiting list for a home - also known as the housing register - and it can help you if you are already homeless. The list is for anyone the council could offer housing to, which is usually a property owned by the council or a local housing association.

However, councils can decide their own rules when adding people to the list. But legally they must consider applications from people: 

  • who are homeless 

  • who are at risk of being homeless within 56 days

  • who are living in unsanitary or overcrowded properties

  • who need housing because of a medical condition or disability

The council will explain your options to you and look at things like how long you’ve lived in the area and if you have family living there. If you don’t have any links to the local area, it may refer you to another council where you lived when receiving asylum support accommodation or somewhere where you have a local connection.  

If there isn’t any suitable accommodation, you may be put in a bed and breakfast or a hostel until a home can be found.   

How to get help paying for housing 

If you’re living in a rented property, either one you found yourself or one the council has found, and can’t afford to pay the rent, you can apply for housing benefit. This can take around six weeks until the payment is made, if you’re eligible.

The type of benefit will depend on your circumstances and where you are in the country. Universal credit has replaced the older housing benefit in most areas and eventually will be the only kind of benefit available for support with housing costs.

The amount of money you get through the benefit will depend upon things like your income or any savings you have. It may not cover your entire rental payments, and you might need to pay for a deposit as well. However, there are some schemes available to help if you’re unable to save for a deposit, and more details can be found through a charity such as Crisis

There’s also a discretionary housing payment (DHP) which may be available to you. It is an extra payment made by your local council if you’re struggling to pay your rent and it doesn’t need to be repaid. 

To apply for a DHP you’ll need to be receiving housing benefit or the universal credit housing element. You can apply through your local council and it will look at things like the reasons why you need help with rent, what has caused the shortfall, and if you risk homelessness when making a decision.    

A refugee integration loan can pay for a rental deposit

A refugee integration loan can be used to pay for a deposit for a rented property, rent, household items, or for education or training for employment. 

The loan is designed to help refugees to integrate into UK society, through securing housing, education or work. It can’t be used for general living costs, household bills, driving costs, to repay debt, or to travel to see family members. 

If you use it for a reason which isn’t allowed, you may have to pay it back in full immediately. 

There isn’t a set amount for the loan and the amount available will depend upon your circumstances, such as what you need the loan for and your income. How much your repayments are will also depend on your income or savings.

The smallest amount available is £100 and to apply for one you need to fit certain eligibility criteria. 

This includes being aged 18 or older, and either being a refugee or having humanitarian protection or being a dependant of someone with one of these statuses, or someone who has been allowed to enter the country and stay after 11 June 2007 under one of these clauses. 

You won’t be able to apply if you’ve had one of these loans before, even if it was a joint loan with another person, or if you are an asylum seeker who’s been allowed to settle by a decision outside the UK immigration rules.

The loan is interest free but it must be paid back through regular payments which usually start around six weeks after the loan has been paid. You can apply for the loan, or find out more details, through your local Job Centre or online on the website.

How to get help if you’re at risk of being homeless

If you’re a refugee and aren’t able to pay for a deposit or rent, and you’re not eligible for an integration loan, an organisation such as the Refugee Council may be able to help. 

It can provide free help and advice and also has a private rented scheme for those in London who have become homeless as a direct result of being granted protection in the UK. It’s also able to pay a deposit bond for refugees who are unable to pay a deposit in some cases.  

Your local Citizens Advice centre can also provide help with any element of living as a refugee. If you’re at risk of being made homeless, Shelter also provides help and advice both on its website and by calling 0808 800 4444.

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