Host Guidelines & FAQs

(Homestays & Private Homes) Host family guidelines

At London Homestays, our primary concern is that the student’s homestay in England is a happy experience.  Hosting a student can be very demanding but also very rewarding.  However it will, to an extent, restrict your privacy.  If you are a prospective new host and are unsure, or in any doubt of your ability to meet all the criteria below, please contact us for details about how to register as a self-catering guest house, which does not require you to include the student in your family activities.

We pride ourselves on our high standards and therefore require all our hosts to comply with the following guidelines, many of which are based upon the EnglishUK Homestay Code of Practice, to which we strictly adhere. In hosting our students you are, in effect, representing our company and are therefore in a position of trust.  This is one reason why we select our hosts so carefully.

We look forward to a mutually rewarding partnership with you and encourage you to contact us should you have any doubt as to what is expected of you. If you have designed your own set of student rules or guidelines that you intend to present to students upon arrival, please forward a copy to us for approval before distributing it to students.

How do I get a booking?

The booking

Our staff will normally contact you by telephone or email, to discuss and offer you a booking.  Brief details of the student are given in the first instance and once the booking is confirmed, it will be followed up with the appropriate paperwork together with full payment details.

How do I find out my students arrival time?

Arrival time

We will endeavour to advise you of your student’s arrival. However if this is not possible due to any changes/delays, the student has been told to contact you directly by telephone or email (your contact details are given to them after the booking is confirmed). We inform the student that unless they contact you, or our agency, prior to arrival to organise a convenient time to arrive at your home, we cannot guarantee that you will be at home to greet them.

What happens if I cancel a booking?

Cancellation of booking by a host family

When accepting a booking from us, please be aware that upon agreeing to take a student, a chain of events is activated. While it is understood that occasionally hosts have to cancel due to family emergencies, we do not expect our hosts to cancel (even with several weeks’ notice), unless it is absolutely unavoidable. A cancellation not only involves extensive administration for us, but it damages our credibility with the client/school, which in turn damages the school’s reputation with the agent. Worst of all a change of plan can be anxiety provoking for students who have mentally prepared themselves for their new home away from home.

What happens if my booking gets cancelled?

Cancellation/Curtailment of booking by student

If a student cancels the accommodation we have booked with you, we will notify you as soon as possible and place you on top priority for a replacement (subject to matching criteria). Should the cancellation occur one week or less prior to the booked arrival date, and if Home from Home Student Services Ltd is unable to supply a suitable replacement student, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation.  Compensation will also be paid if a student fails to arrive without having given prior notice (no-show).

If a student asks to cut short their stay, please contact our office immediately. Our terms and conditions are designed to protect hosts from the inconvenience of a student leaving at short notice, and the student is normally expected to give reasonable notice before leaving in order to avoid penalty. The exception is when a student leaves as a result of a valid complaint about the accommodation, in which case Home from Home Student Services Ltd will resolve the matter with the host. Please refer to the contract for further details.

How am I paid? / Who pays me?

Payment

Payment is guaranteed by London Homestays and paid by bank transfer 10 days after the student’s arrival. The first payment will cover the first 4 week period and subsequent payments will be made every 4 weeks, depending on the student’s length of stay. If the duration of stay is less than 4 weeks, the full amount will be transferred 10 days after the student’s arrival.

If the student guest requests an extension, you must advise London Homestays so that we may collect additional payment from our client(s). London Homestays will not be responsible for any additional payments for extended stays that have not been authorised by us. Hosts should not take payments directly from student guests. This is a serious breach of contract and you will risk being excluded as a London Homestays host for future bookings. Host families are solely responsible for reporting their earnings to the Inland Revenue. London Homestays are NOT responsible for payment of hosts’ taxes.

Under no circumstances should you contact a student’s school or agent regarding payment.

What happens if my student wants to stay longer than the original booking?

Booking extensions

If a student tells you that he/she wishes to extend their stay, please ask the student to arrange this with our office. We are under obligation to pay you only for the period of stay booked by us. Only extensions of stay authorised by Home from Home Student Services Ltd will be paid to Host families.

Do I have to pay tax?

Tax liability

It is the host’s responsibility to meet any tax liability incurred as a result of hosting Home from Home Student Services Ltd students. At the time of going to print, the amount that a host is entitled to earn from letting rooms in their home without any tax liability is £4,250.00 per annum. This is liable to change over time and subject to government policy. For up-to-date information, please contact your nearest Tax office for further details.

Who is responsible for any damage?

Insurance

Home from Home Student Services Ltd is not responsible for loss or damage to the property of either yourself or your student guest. You are recommended to check with your home contents insurance provider if your cover extends to paying guests. You may want to consider purchasing public liability insurance.

What do I do in an emergency?

Problems & Emergencies

In case of any difficulty with a student, which you cannot resolve yourself, please call us in the office on 0208 395 0333 or email us at info@londonhomestays.com. We want you to enjoy hosting the students and are here to help you if there is a problem.  We may be able to assist by speaking directly to the student; possibly in his or her own language. We expect our hosts to be patient with their student guests as sometimes what seems to be a big problem is the result of a cultural difference or misunderstanding of the language.

There are several mobile contact numbers available on the out-of-hours answering service that can be used in case of an emergency. We regret that we are unable to answer general queries outside of office hours and you are asked to telephone during office hours for anything that is not an emergency.

How should I greet my guest?

The welcome

The welcome a student receives from you and your family may be the first impression of Britain that they receive. For some students this will be the first time they have been away from home and they may feel lost, homesick or overwhelmed.

We count on our hosts to give our students a warm welcome. In registering as a homestay or private home you are expected to treat the student as a member of your family and include them in as many aspects of family life as possible.

Misunderstandings may occasionally occur over cultural differences or language. Hosts should try to resolve these sympathetically and cheerfully and try not to appear impatient or judgmental.

Family harmony is important. It can be frightening for a student to witness an argument, however minor, as they may not understand what is being said.

Can I take two students from the same country?

Nationality

If hosting more than one student at a time in your home, please bear in mind that students who speak the same mother tongue cannot be placed within the same household. The only exception is when two or more students arrive together and request to be placed in the same family.

If you are hosting for other agencies or schools, you are obligated to advise us at the time of booking if you have accepted another booking for a student of the same mother tongue. Failure to do so could result our having to relocate the student without compensation to you.

How many students can I take?

Number of students

To be classified as a “homestay” you must host no more than four students at any one time. Should you wish to accommodate more than four students, you would be classified as a “private home”. Should you add an extension to your home or start to let additional rooms, it is imperative that you advise us as soon as possible. It may simply be a matter or re-classifying you in line with the ENGLISH UK/British Council guidelines. We are able to provide students for hosts of both homestays and private homes.

What do I do if my details change?

Change of details

Should the description of your accommodation change in any way whatsoever (such as, if there have been additions/departures to the family, you have acquired a pet or made significant changes to students’ rooms or living areas) it is your responsibility to contact us immediately, so that we can change your details on our database. Failure to do this could result in our placing a student with you who may have matched your original details but may not match your new ones (such as requesting a home without pets when a newly acquired pet is now in residence). This could cause us to have to relocate a student, once placed with you, without notice or compensation.

What information do I need to provide to my guest?

Information

Hosts are expected to assist students upon arrival and provide them with information such as how to get to their school by public transport. This includes explaining where to find the nearest underground/train station/bus stop and how to purchase a travel card.

Other information, which should be offered, includes:

  • Directions to shops, supermarket, chemist, post office, bank, library, leisure centre, internet café etc.
  • How to register with the local doctor (for long stay students)
  • Information about your family, such as breakfast and dinner times, laundry, bathroom schedules in the morning, kitchen use etc. Any “house rules” should be explained in a positive manner so as not to offend.

Which rooms can my student use?

The house & cleanliness

Students must be allowed to utilise all public areas of the house in the same way as any family member.

Public areas as well as the kitchen and bathrooms should be kept very clean. Please ensure that your home is always clean and tidy whilst hosting a student.

Do I have to give students a house key?

Keys

Students must be provided with their own door key, which should be returned to you on the day of departure. Students must be allowed to come and go as they please but are expected to do so quietly, particularly late at night.

Do I need to provide heating during colder weather?

Heating

Adequate heating should be provided in the student’s room and throughout the home (at no charge to the student). Many students who come from warmer climates feel the cold and are not used to the heating being switched off during the night. You may need to offer the student an extra blanket or duvet.

What do I need to put in the students room?

The student’s room

No more than two students (age over 18) should be accommodated in one private room and they must be booked by Home from Home Student Services Ltd as a “twin share”. It is NOT acceptable for our students to share with “strangers” to whom you are letting a bed from another source.

The room must be of a reasonable size (The 1986 Housing Act requires bedrooms to be a minimum of 70 sq. ft. for one adult and 110 sq. ft. for two adults).

You must not offer rooms in your home which have not already been inspected by our assessor. Rooms must have comfortable full size bed(s) (at least 4’6” by 6’32 for double beds and 2’6” by 6’3” for single beds). Bunk beds, sofa beds and fold up beds or futons are not acceptable.

Each room must be well decorated and maintained (not shabby) with good lighting including bedside lamp, a carpet or rug, curtains or blinds at windows (windowless rooms are not acceptable), a wardrobe, storage space such as a chest of drawers, a bedside table, a desk or writing table with chair and a mirror. The room should be for the student’s exclusive use and storage space should be empty for the student’s use and not contain any items belonging to the family.

Students are expected to keep their own room tidy but they are not expected to clean it. The room should be cleaned once a week by the host.

Bed linen, which is provided by the host, must be spotlessly clean and in good repair. Sheets and pillowcases must be changed and laundered weekly by the host.

Students’ privacy must be respected and the host should not enter the student’s room except to clean it. Please do not keep any personal possessions in the room that you will need to regularly access during the student’s stay. Your children or pets should never be allowed to enter a student’s room. Students are recommended to not leave valuables or money in their room and it would be appreciated if you would advise them as to a safe place in your home where valuables can be stored.

Bathroom cleanliness

Bathroom

Bathrooms should be kept spotlessly clean. Soap, hot water and toilet paper should always be provided (at no cost to the student). You should also provide a bin for the disposal of feminine sanitary protection. The student should not be expected to clean the bathroom but they should leave it tidy after use.

The host is responsible for providing the student with towels. They should be changed and laundered by the host once a week.

You are recommended to agree a bathroom schedule with the student soon after arrival, especially if there are several people using the bathroom during busy times.

Do the students need to use my phone/internet?

Telephone & Internet

A telephone must be available for the student to receive a reasonable number of incoming calls from their family abroad, especially in the case of an emergency. The telephone should be located in a common area which is accessible to the student. Hosts may wish to ask the student to advise friends and family not to telephone before or after a certain time each day so as not to disturb the family’s sleep.  However, many students come from countries where there is a time difference, so a degree of compromise may be the answer.

Hosts are not expected to allow students to make outgoing calls unless they purchase a telephone card and use it under the host’s supervision. Most students use the internet to speak with their friends and families or purchase a mobile phone shortly after arrival. However, an initial means of communication from parents abroad is greatly appreciated.

Internet in the homestay is becoming increasingly important to students for many reasons, including study purposes and to contact their family members back home. Please ensure that your internet is available for the students to use when they need it. If you have a monthly bandwidth limit, please communicate this to the student upon welcoming them into your home, to avoid any uncomfortable situations later in the stay.

Does the student need to use my washing machine?

Laundry

Host families should allow the student use of the washing machine twice a week or do the student’s laundry free of charge. The loan of an iron and ironing board may also be requested and would be appreciated.

If the student wishes to use the washing machine more than twice a week, the host is at liberty to charge a reasonable fee for the extra washes.

Does the student need to use my kitchen?

Kitchen use

Hosts are expected to allow the student to make tea and coffee in the host’s kitchen (within reason).

Light kitchen use for Bed and Breakfast and occasionally Half Board students is appreciated. The host’s agreement to this is normally established by our assessor during the inspection visit.  “Light” kitchen use means use of microwave, making toast, heating soup or another ready-made meal on the stove, or boiling pasta.  Students who are permitted to cook are expected to provide all their own ingredients and may not help themselves to your food.  Please provide a small space in your refrigerator to store their food.  Students who are allowed this facility are expected to clean up after use, leaving the kitchen as they found it, and to use the kitchen at times convenient to the host. Students booked on a self-catering basis will obviously have full use of the kitchen with cooking times to be agreed between the host and student.

What if the student wants to bring guests into my house?

Friends

Students appreciate being allowed to invite their friends over occasionally but this is entirely at your discretion.  Students do not have an automatic right to bring their friends home and must always ask your permission. You are not expected to let students have their friends or family to stay overnight with them in their room, and if you receive such a request, please contact our office.

I have a dog, is this ok?

Pets

Students from some other countries are not always as comfortable with family pets as the average British person is, and your student may be afraid of your pet, at least in the first instance.

Pets should NOT be allowed near the table at mealtimes, to jump up on surfaces where food is prepared or to eat from the same dishes as the family.

Is having a student the same as having a lodger?

Family life

Younger students expect to be treated as you would your own son or daughter, and older students expect to be treated similar to a family member, and therefore like to be included in as many aspects of family life as possible. This includes free use of the living room and communal areas. Students often like to watch television with their host, even if they have their own TV in the room.

Part of being a host is to converse with the student for a reasonable length of time each day so that they can practise their English. Help with homework is often appreciated.

What food do I need to provide?

Meals

Some students are used to eating later than the average British family. Please discuss meal times soon after the student’s arrival, as there may be a conflict of schedules, which needs resolving.

Meals are to be taken with the host and family. Students should not be expected to eat alone, except when they arrive home later than the normal arranged meal-time, in which case their food can be kept warm or re-heated. If it is not possible to eat together due to work commitments or if you have to be out one evening, please explain to the student where to find the ingredients for their breakfast or be sure to leave a pre-prepared meal for them if you have to be out at dinner time. It is advisable to check with the student shortly after arrival as to whether they have special dietary needs or cannot eat/do not like certain foods. Any special dietary requests will normally have been advised to you at the time of booking.

Breakfast

Hosts are expected to provide Continental Breakfast (unless booked as Self Catering). Sometimes students arrive in Britain expecting an English (cooked) Breakfast but this is not part of our accommodation offer. However, if you normally cook breakfast for yourself and your family, then it should be offered to the student.

The minimum requirement for breakfast consists of: cereal, toast or bread/rolls with butter, marmalade or jam, fruit juice and tea or coffee with fresh milk.

Some students appreciate a piece of fruit for breakfast. Others expect cold ham, cheese or yoghurt. The provision of these additional items is entirely at your discretion and you are under no obligation to provide them. Some hosts suggest that student’s purchase their own extra (cold) breakfast items and allow them a space in the refrigerator to store them.

Dinner

Dinner should consist of a substantial cooked meal, consisting of a main course of *meat or fish, with potatoes, pasta or rice and green vegetables or salad. This should be followed by fruit or dessert and/or cheese. Many overseas students appreciate bread with their meal.

*Exception is vegetarian students. Students are not expected to help in the kitchen with meal preparation or washing up/ cleaning the kitchen if the meal has been prepared by the host. Some students may offer, in which case, by all means let them help out. This may provide the student opportunity to interact with their hosts, establish friendships and to practise their English.

My student stays out late at the weekend. Is this ok?

Staying out

Students aged over 18 are at liberty to stay out late or even spend the night away from home without family interference. They should, however, always advise you if they are going to be late for meals or home very late. An exception to this rule is with juniors (under 18). If you are worried about young students over the age of 18, please contact our office for advice.

Welfare & Safety

Welfare

If you have any worries or concerns about a student staying with you (for example if they are excessively homesick or appear to be behaving irresponsibly in a way that might threaten their personal safety) please contact us immediately. We will then either speak to the student ourselves or discuss your concerns with the student’s school or agent.

Safety

Safety is one of our major concerns and all our hosts are required to adhere to the following safety rules which we may check from time to time:

  • If you have a gas boiler or any gas appliances, you are required to have a current certificate issued by a GAS-SAFE registered plumber.
  • You must establish escape routes in case of fire for all occupants from your house.  If you are a “private home” and can accommodate more than 6 guests a fire certificate is required (unless they are sleeping on the ground or first floor of your home).
  • Your electrical wiring must be up-to-date and in good order.
  • You must have a smoke alarm.
  • You should be aware of the health and safety regulations with regard to cooking and keeping food.

For further information on any of the above, please contact our office.

Conclusion

Hosts should always contact Home from Home Student Services Ltd in case of any query.  It is Home from Home Student Services Ltd‘s responsibility to handle queries and problems, which we may discuss with the school ourselves if we believe that it is necessary.

We look forward to welcoming you as a Home from Home host!

Which laws affect me as a host?

Laws which affect you as hosts

This information sheet should be read in conjunction with Home from Home Student Services Ltd’s “Guidelines For Hosts” information leaflet and the contract, which you signed when you first became a Home from Home Student Services Ltd host. It is intended as a general guide only.  For further information on specific legal matters and your rights, please contact the appropriate official body.

Contract Between Host & Home from Home Student Services

When a member of Home from Home Student Services Ltd staff books accommodation with you either verbally (over the telephone) or in writing, you are entering into a legally binding contract. For details of your legal obligations as well as those of Home from Home Student Services Ltd, please refer to the contract, as well as the Host Guidelines.

Should a student fail to arrive or leave before the end of the period booked, you may be entitled to compensation under the conditions specified in the contract. Alternatively, Home from Home Student Services Ltd may offer you another (replacement) student.  A host cannot reasonably refuse this offer and if they do so, they cannot expect financial compensation.

The Data Protection Act

Home from Home Student Services Ltd holds information on each registered host which includes the hosts name, address, telephone number, transportation, details of the host and other family members, description of accommodation and history of placements made with that host on its database.

Home from Home Student Services Ltd will not disclose this information to any third parties other than to the potential student, school or agent and occasionally to British Council inspectors, when either we or our client English language schools are inspected as part of their accreditation process.  This will involve giving details of hosts who have accommodated students from the school in question to the British Council inspector(s), who also keep this information confidential.

Race Relations

We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or nationality when recruiting potential hosts (providing they have an acceptable level of spoken English) and we ask hosts to be as open minded as possible when offered international students. We ask students to respect host’s cultures and religion at all times and we ask the same from our host families. If you have any questions or are unsure of any aspects of your students culture/religion or want advice on the above, please feel free to contact us.

Rent Acts

As a host, you are not risking students having security of tenure (becoming “sitting tenants”) providing food is supplied. This includes hosts who provide breakfast only as well as those providing half board (breakfast and dinner). When you do not provide meals (self-catering accommodation) or are letting a bed-sit, studio or furnished flat, this may be classified as a “holiday let” providing the student’s stay does not exceed 8 months. This also means that security of tenure should not apply.

Department of Social Security

Under the Social Security Administration Act of 1992, local DSS inspectors have right of access to any records of payments to hosts, as part of their investigation into Social Security fraud.  Home from Home Student Services Ltd does not routinely provide the DHSS with such information.  However, should we ever be required by a DHSS inspector to make these records available to them, we would be legally bound to reveal them.

Income Tax

You are currently (at the time of writing) entitled to earn £4,250 per year from hosting students without incurring any tax liability. You would only pay tax on any amount you earned above that figure. This amount is separate from any other income you may earn.

If you earn more than £4,250 per year, you may choose:

i) To pay the tax on the amount by which your gross rent exceeds £4,250 without separate tax relief or allowable expenses   OR

ii) To calculate your profit from letting (gross rents less actual expenses) and paying tax on that profit in the normal way.

For further information, please refer to the Inland Revenue leaflet IR87 Rooms to Let or contact your local tax office for the most up-to-date information.

Capital Gains Tax

If you sell your home, you will not be liable for Capital Gains Tax on room’s used, short or long term, by students so long as meals are provided and the sitting rooms and/or other rooms are shared with students.

Fire Precautions, Health & Safety

If there are more than six guests in the house, they must sleep on the ground or first floor.  Where six or more students are accommodated, the provider must comply with the Fire Precautions Act, the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and the Housing Act 1985. The Housing Acts of 1989 and 1985 state that, at the discretion of the local council, a home may be designated a “House of Multiple Occupancy” (HMO).

Home from Home Student Services Ltd requires all its hosts to have smoke alarm(s) fitted.

Electrical wiring should be checked before hosting students.

Gas Safety

Every year there are a number of incidents reported nationally which involve gas appliances. These include asphyxiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and explosions. You are required to take the following precautions:

All gas appliances must be checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. The law also states that:

  • All boilers and central heating systems should be installed and serviced regularly under contract with “competent persons” only (i.e. Gas Safe member contractors).
  • No appliance should be used if it is known or suspected of being unsafe.
  • The room where the gas appliance is located must have adequate ventilation – air inlets should not be blocked to prevent draughts, and flues and chimneys should not be obstructed.

Size of Rooms

The 1986 Housing Act requires bedrooms for a house in multiple occupation to a minimum of 70 sq.ft. for one adult and 110 for two adults.  In this case an adult is anyone of 10 years of age or over.

The Children Act 1989

If you are hosting “Juniors” (i.e. students under 18 years of age), you will be required to sign a declaration attesting to your suitability to foster children privately. This form, which is supplied to you by Home from Home Student Services Ltd must be completed by all members of the household who are over 16 years of age. This form registers your agreement to the local authority arranging for police records to be checked for previous convictions, subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and exemption orders.  Section 70(a) of the Children Act 1989 provides that a person who makes any statement in this notice which he knows to be false or misleading, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5.  As an accommodation agency we are required to ensure that extra care is taken when placing juniors.  Home from Home Student Services Ltd may request that its host families conduct a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check. If this is requested full support and advice will be given on how/where this can be requested.

Mail & Luggage

A host may not hold or destroy mail addressed to a student. We advise you to keep a note of a student’s forwarding address. Please either forward their mail or return it to the post office marked “gone away”. A host may hold luggage or other property belonging to a student against a disputed debt providing authorisation is obtained by Home from Home Student Services Ltd management.

If property is left behind or abandoned by a student it may be held by the host or, preferably by the school/organisation. After a reasonable period the student or their parents will be contacted and asked for instructions as to the disposal of the goods or payment in advance for the cost of postage or carriage.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at info@londonhomestays.com if you require any further information on any of the above.

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