Moving into Your New Home
Coongratulations, you’ve found a property and the landlord has agreed to rent it to you. What are some of the things to be aware of when moving in?
On this page
- If you are renting a flat or house
- If you are renting a room in a house
- Furnishing accommodation
- Moving furniture into a new home
- Help with council tax bills (including 50% discount for Homes for Ukraine visa holders in England)
- Help with energy bills
- Help with broadband costs
- Welfare grants from the council
- Contents insurance
- Repairs and maintenance
- Changing schools
- Informing the council
- Notifying others of a change in address
If you are renting a flat or house
Flats and houses can be rented furnished, part furnished or unfurnished. It’s probably advisable to go for furnished accommodation especially if you are not sure how long you will be in the country. With furnished accommodation, you will provide your own things like plates, a television and bed linen, but you should get the other big items like sofa, dining table, beds, wardrobes, washing machine, fridge freezer, vacuum cleaner etc with the flat or house.
You will generally be responsible for all the bills such as gas, electricity, water, internet, TV licence, and council tax, and the bills will therefore usually be set up in your name. It’s important to pay these on time, or talk to the utility company if you are in difficulties. Not paying your bills on time can damage your ‘credit score’. Make sure all such organisations know the exact date you move in to avoid receiving backdated bills for which you are not responsible.
In England, if everyone in the household is a Homes for Ukraine visa holder, you are entitled to a 50% discount on your council tax bill – see #help-with-council-tax. (This does not apply to Wales. We are clarifying the position for Scotland.)
At the start of your tenancy, the landlord or letting agent should go through an ‘inventory’ which you review and sign, which describes the items that are in the property, the state of the property including furnishings and carpets, and the initial meter readings of the gas and electricity so that the utility companies can provide you with accurate bills. When you leave the property, you only need to clean your home to the same standard as it was when you moved in, so ensure this is captured in the inventory.
At the end of your tenancy, you are responsible for ensuring that all the items and furnishings in the inventory are as you received them, apart from normal wear and tear, and that the property is in the same good, clean condition as when you moved in. If the property was initially cleaned to a professional standard when you moved in, then you will need to ensure it is cleaned to the same standard, as otherwise the cost of doing this could be held back from your deposit. You will also need to take final meter readings for gas and electricity and settle your bills with the utility companies.
If you are renting a room in a house
When you live in a house share, you must pay your share of the council tax bill, as every adult (whether a homeowner or a tenant) pays this at their primary place of residence. The arrangements for other bills may be different, for example, if you are a lodger, your rent might be inclusive of bills to make it simpler for the landlord.
If everyone in the shared house is a Homes for Ukraine visa holder, you are entitled to a 50% discount on your council tax bill – see #help-with-council-tax.
If you are sharing communal areas with other tenants, you should come to an arrangement around cleaning rotas and be respectful of other people’s schedules and lifestyles.
If you have taken an unfurnished flat, or need to source some items, have a look at Clothing, Food and Household Goods for some ideas on where to find free or affordable things.
Your local community of hosts and your local refugee support group may also be able to ask around and find items for you from neighbours and friends, or local charities. You really do not need to spend a lot of money to equip your property.
Moving furniture to a new home
If you have furniture and items to move, you may want to hire a van by the hour such as a Zip van. You could also compare van hire prices using a comparison site such as https://www.vanrental.co.uk/, or look for a local firm.
You can also ask for a ‘Man with a Van’ type service on local Facebook or Nextdoor groups, where someone who owns a van can help you move the items as well.
Both these options will likely be cheaper than booking a removals firm.
Help with council tax bills (including 50% discount for Homes for Ukraine visa holders in England)
Properties are placed in Council Tax Bands by local councils; basically, the larger the property and the better the location, the higher the council tax band is likely to be. Council tax bands start from Band A as the lowest. The council tax bill covers many things the local council needs to fund, such as waste collection, street cleaning, libraries and so on.
Let the council know the exact date you moved into your own property to avoid them charging you prior to this.
If you are on Universal Credit or Pension Credit, you should be entitled to a reduction on your council tax bill – see UK Benefits System for a description of Council Tax Reduction. Each local council will have its own processes for making a claim; follow the links provided to get to the relevant page for your local council.
Homes for Ukraine visa holders 50% council tax discount (England)
IMPORTANT: In England, if all members of the household received a Homes for Ukraine visa, then it’s our understanding that they would qualify for a 50% reduction in the council tax bill when renting their own accommodation.
This is because of legislation that was amended in April 2022 for England to declare that Homes for Ukraine visa holders are ‘disregarded persons’ for council tax purposes. The relevant legislation update is documented here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/439/regulation/3/made. In here, you can see the amendment: “in considering whether a dwelling is unoccupied, any occupation by a relevant Ukrainian person is to be disregarded”, where the definition of a ‘relevant Ukrainian person’ means a Homes for Ukraine visa holder.
Note that ‘disregarded’ doesn’t mean that your bill should be zero. Rather, ‘disregarded persons’ are only eligible to pay 50% of the council tax discount.
You will find different councils have different levels of awareness of this rule. If your local council did not apply this discount to you, please email or write to their council tax department to request they apply it, backdated to April 2022, and refund any money owed.
You can download and adapt the following Word document when writing to or emailing your local council (with kind thanks to this Facebook Ukrainian support group for providing the template). Alternatively, if editing Word documents is difficult, we suggest using the simplified wording in italics below, which you can cut and paste into your email with the subject: “Homes for Ukraine 50% council tax discount”:
“To whom it may concern:
Council tax reference: *[include Council Tax Reference if available]
The property *[insert property address] is occupied solely by persons who are ‘disregarded’ by virtue of their status as arrivals in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. The relevant amendment to include Homes for Ukraine visa holders in the category of ‘disregarded persons’ is documented here: The Council Tax (Discount Disregards and Exempt Dwellings) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 (legislation.gov.uk). It is understood that there is a statutory discount of 50% where all persons within a dwelling are ‘disregarded’.
Moreover, as the Homes for Ukraine immigration status remains valid for the full 3 years, not just for the time spent while living at the sponsor’s property, the ‘disregarded persons’ status applies to Homes for Ukraine visa holders moving into their own rented accommodation, as confirmed by Government guidance published here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/renting-private-accommodation-homes-for-ukraine – “If you move out of sponsored accommodation into privately rented property or a home of your own, you will become liable for paying Council Tax. If you, and everyone else in your household, received a visa through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, you will need to pay 50% of the overall Council Tax bill.”
It is understood that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities wrote to all Local Authorities in England, for the attention of the Council Tax Section, on 11 April 2022 with full detail of the amendment and discount to be applied. As an example, Croydon Council have been applying this rule; see Homes for Ukraine: Help with Council Tax | Croydon Council
I would be grateful if you would now confirm that a 50% discount has now been applied for future billing purposes of the stated address. Furthermore, given that the Council was made aware of this amendment in April 2022, it is requested that the discount is applied retrospectively, and a refund provided if applicable.
Yours sincerely, *[insert your name]
If you cannot find your local council’s council tax department email or contact form, you can try contacting the Ukraine support team; we have given some emails here.
After the 50% discount is applied, you could still be eligible to receive help from the council with paying the remaining bill.
Help with energy bills
The cost of living, especially around energy bills, is a hot topic at the moment and it’s definitely worth keeping up to date with the news as the Government may be announcing even more support for this in the coming months.
All households may be entitled to receive help, regardless of whether they are eligible for Universal or Pension Credit, or not. This ‘cost of living support’ is automatically applied to household energy bills by the energy suppliers, so you do not have to claim it.
If you are eligible for Universal Credit or Pension Credit, you may be entitled to extra help from the Government, on top of any help that is given to all households, and this extra help will be automatically paid to you through your Universal or Pension Credit account.
See for example, https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Cost-of-Living-Support/Money-off-your-energy-bills for more information.
See https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/benefits/emergency_grants_loans_and_money_help for more information and tips on help with bills.
Help with broadband costs
Many broadband providers are offering ‘social tariffs’ for those on low incomes and in receipt of benefits such as Universal Credit and Pension Credit. These represent lower rates than their normal tariffs. They’ll use your National Insurance number to check your eligibility with the Department of Work and Pensions.
For example, Virgin Media are offering a broadband package for £12.50 a month, on a 30 day rolling contract, which makes it an attractive option for refugees who are not sure how long they might be staying here.
By contrast, British Telecom (BT) also offer a similar tariff for £15 a month; you can check your eligibility online using your National Insurance number: https://www.bt.com/broadband/home-essentials. It’s a 12 month contract, which you can transfer with you if you move again, but if you go back to Ukraine before the 12 months, you’d need to pay a cancellation charge.
See https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/social-tariffs for a full list of providers and tariffs.
Note that you might even be able to find providers that offer similar prices on their normal tariffs. Shop around, and check out consumer price comparison sites such as MoneySuperMarket.com.
Welfare grants from the council
Some local councils are able to provide households on low incomes with one-off grants to help them move into a new home. These grants do not have to be paid back. You could use this money to buy furniture or appliances for example.
Speak to your local council’s housing department to ask what is available and how you should apply. They may also put you in touch with local organisations and charities that can provide you with a grant.
See https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/benefits/emergency_grants_loans_and_money_help for more information; this type of help is ‘local welfare support’, and it’s separate to the centralised benefits given by the Government to help those on little or no money (Universal Credit and Pension Credit). This page also has tips on where else to find help.
While the landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, don’t forget to buy contents insurance so that you are covered for the cost of replacing your belongings in case of fire, accidental damage or theft. Shop around on price comparison sites like Go Compare, Money SuperMarket, Confused.com and Compare The Market.
Repairs and maintenance
The landlord has a responsibility to carry out repairs as needed. Typically, most landlords may choose to redecorate properties every so often, usually they will leave a gap between one tenant leaving and the next moving in to allow this. It’s best to report any issues that need fixing promptly so that they can sort them out before they become a bigger and more expensive problem to fix.
Shelter have a helpful article here: Landlord and tenant responsibilities for repairs – Shelter England which describes the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants with regards to maintenance.
Important information such as the gas safety certificate, the EPC (energy performance certificate), numbers that you can contact in an emergency, such as plumbers, gas engineers, and electricians, and the landlord’s or property management company’s own numbers should be placed in a file kept in the property itself.
If you are changing location, you don’t need to change your children’s schools. Once your child has been placed in a school, it’s okay to move afterwards to a more affordable or more convenient location. Some schools only communicate with parents via email, so don’t need your address in any case.
If however, it becomes difficult to commute to the school from your new home, you should contact the local council(s) to request a transfer to a nearer school via the ‘in year admissions process’. You can even ask to change to a school which is in a different local council area. You may be put on a waiting list for the new school, if it is a popular (oversubscribed) school. Each school has its own admissions criteria, so the order in which the waiting list is processed may depend for example on how close your new location is to the new school.
Informing the council
Once you have moved out, don’t forget that you or your host should inform the local council so that they stop the £350 monthly ‘thank you’ payments to the host.
Notifying others of a change of address
Some of the areas where you should report a change of address are:
- Your bank
- Your Immigration account if you have one – https://www.gov.uk/update-uk-visas-immigration-account-details
- Your BRP – https://www.gov.uk/change-circumstances-visa-brp
- Child Benefit – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/child-benefit-change-of-family-circumstances or phone 0300 200 3100
- (We assume that you have already updated your Universal Credit or Pension Credit account if eligible, as you will be receiving some help with housing costs or Housing Benefit)
For a fee, you can also set up a mail redirection service with Royal Mail to send mail to your new address – https://www.royalmail.com/start-your-redirection. This can help you identify any remaining places where you still need to update your address.