The mutual said that it would “do everything it can” to support borrowers who wanted to be part of the scheme and it would offer vacant properties it owns to refugee families.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to host Ukrainian refugees, including those with no family ties to the UK.
In phase one of the scheme sponsors can nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property.
A webpage to register interest in the scheme was launched by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities yesterday.
Stacey Stothard (pictured), head of sustainability at Skipton Building Society, said that it was “watching on in absolute horror at the devastating humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine”.
She added: “We simply cannot imagine how traumatising it must be to flee your home against your will, with just the possessions that you can carry, leaving friends, neighbours and loved ones behind.
Stothard continued that the mutual wanted to “everything within our power to support refugees of this war”.
She continued: “As a mortgage lender we commit today to any of our customers wanting to offer space in their homes to refugees that we will do everything we can to make this happen irrespective of our lending criteria rules or the terms and conditions our customers signed when taking their Skipton mortgage. This is the right thing for us to do.”
The mutual pledged £50,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal last week and said that people could donate to the appeal via its branches or online.
Homes for Ukraine scheme commendable but legal pitfalls to consider
Christian Fox, a barrister at Becket Chambers and a property law specialist, said that the UK had seen an outpouring of support for Ukraine and there was likely to be high interest in the scheme.
He said: “Offering sanctuary to people in need is to be lauded and anyone considering opening their rooms, homes or properties should not be put off.”
However, he added that there were “legal pitfalls” that residents and hosts should consider.
He explained: “Offering anything other than a room in your own main home, for example an annex or separate property, can inadvertently create a tenancy. It is far better for both parties to understand the way they can extend or terminate the agreement now, rather than risking acrimony or legal action later.
“There are also questions around responsibility for property maintenance, insurance and payment for utilities and council tax that need to be considered before, rather than after, the event.”
He added that if an owner of a second home or investment property allowed several families to stay this may mean that the property would need to register as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
“While we might hope that local authorities would be sympathetic, unless the government scheme allows exemption, then at the very least licensing will need to be investigated with the local council and their views sought,” Fox said.
He added that offering a room was not as complex as offering a property but offering a property on a long-term basis could impact property insurance or breach mortgage or lease terms. Fox said that many mortgage conditions or lease terms would preclude other families staying in the long-term.
Fox said: “There are also statutory overcrowding offences under the Housing Act 1985, and it is uncertain, for now at least, if these are waived by the Homes for Ukraine scheme or not. As a minimum, hosts would be well advised to contact their mortgage company or landlord and check their insurance cover.”