“We really enjoyed having our student from Armenia stay with our family. My son especially loved learning about a new culture, new food and a new language. She became part of the family and we had lots of great adventures! I would recommend it to anyone who can. SAMS matched us really well and financially it’s been a huge help.” - Sine Murray, recent SAMS student host.
Welcome to the SAMS Host Family Scheme
Our Host Family Scheme offers you an opportunity to enjoy the enriching and rewarding experience of hosting a SAMS student whilst supplementing your income.
Each year we welcome students from all over Scotland, the UK and around world. As part of their experience here, we offer the option to stay with local families to get a true insight into the local culture and way of living.
What does it mean to become a host?
Hosting is an arrangement whereby a student lives with a local host, as a full member of the household. In the hosting arrangement, a student is far more than a tenant, and a host is far more than just a landlord. The relationship between host and student is more like one of an additional member of the family living in the house on a temporary basis. Staying with a host family is a vital element of a student’s overall experience here in Scotland. Living with and getting involved in a Scottish family remains one of the best ways for students to learn English (if non-English speaking) and immerse themselves in the local culture.
Being required to speak English at home makes a significant difference to the level of spoken English our students are able to achieve.
Why become a host?
>Becoming a host can be an enriching experience. Some of the benefits include:
>The chance to meet students from all over the world
>Experiencing and understanding different cultures and traditions
>The opportunity to share your home country’s traditions and cultures
>Contribute a short-term solution to the local accommodation demand
>For anyone who already rents a room for short-term lets, this is an opportunity to increase occupancy and income outwith the peak rental season
>Help support the local economy
Who can apply to be a host?
Potentially anyone can become a host. The make-up of your family unit is less important to us than the kind of experience you are able to offer our students. It is essential that all of our host providers can offer a warm welcome, friendship and, where appropriate, support to our students.
We are looking for host families in and around the Oban area. More details on the application process and our criteria for selecting host providers are given later in this guide, but one key stipulation is that English should be the primary language of communication within the home.
Who are the students requiring host families?
Students will usually be from another country and have decided to study and live in Scotland; international students come from all over the world. Students may also be from within the UK and are having extreme difficulty finding accommodation in the area. All will be 18 years of age or older and enrolled as a student at SAMS studying at undergraduate degree or postgraduate level. Many are on short-stay terms of three months or more.
HOSTING: HOST RESPONSIBILITIES
The British Council Code of Practice for Host Families
>Contractually all host providers are required to abide by the Code of Practice for Host providers:
>To encourage the student to speak English as much as possible in your home.
>To encourage the student to feel at home and to treat him/her/them as a member of the family rather than a paying guest.
>Not to host another student of the same native language at the same time, unless by special arrangement with both students and the University.
>To provide a clean and comfortable student room meeting the physical requirements laid down by the British Council (see below).
>To provide a home environment in which it is possible for the student to carry on his/her/their studies properly.
>To provide the student with a balanced and appropriate diet (if applicable).
>To show concern for the welfare, safety and security of the student during his/her/their stay.
>To provide adequate washing facilities and access to the bathroom as a member of the household, with bath/shower available daily.
>To maintain a close liaison with SAMS and so be in a position to help resolve any problems that the student may encounter during his/her/their stay.
>To respect the student’s different cultural background and be sensitive to the particular needs of the student.
>A laundry service – either access to a washing machine or laundry being done for the student – and the service provided must be clearly explained to the student.
>To provide free access to the internet.
>To provide a proper state of cleanliness and repair in the home.
The access to services provided will be clearly explained. This may include access to the bathroom, laundry service, access to house, smoking rules, use of the internet and home telephone line as well as usage of ventilation systems, heating and hot water.
In homestay, private home and residential accommodation the following will be made available to the student to ensure a comfortable living environment throughout their stay:
>A table or desk for private study.
>A sufficiently spacious bedroom with natural light, equipped with an adequately sized bed and adequate hanging and drawer space for clothes.
>Adequate heating and lighting.
>Two sets of bed linen and a good supply of blankets.
>A proper state of cleanliness and repair.
>Sufficient washing facilities and access to a bathroom, with baths or showers available daily.
>A key for the main property door as well as for the bedroom if the bedroom is lockable.
Health and Safety
The host agrees to provide and maintain:
>One smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes.
>One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as a hallway and landing.
>One heat alarm in each kitchen.
>SAMS recommends one fire blanket to be kept in the kitchen.
>Have gas safety checks carried out annually on each property in full compliance with current gas safety (installation and use) regulations.
>Provide a working carbon monoxide alarm for each carbon-fuelled appliance.
>Have the electrical installation (including wiring, switches and sockets) checked and shown to be in a safe condition and good working order.
>Ensure all exit routes such as hallways, landings and staircases, as far as reasonably practical will be maintained safe, unobstructed and free from fixtures and fittings to enable safe evacuation in the event of fire.
>Ensure they respect the student guest’s right to privacy and will not enter the student’s bedroom, except in a genuine emergency, without permission.
>Members of the Homestay provider’s family will also not enter the room without permission of the guest.
What does being a host involve?
A student is far more than a tenant, and a host is far more than just a landlord.
The relationship between host and student is more like one of an additional member of the household on a temporary basis. When you welcome a student into your household, they may share mealtimes with you, chat to you, watch TV with you and they might even come with you when you go to the cinema or out to see friends. You don’t have to be with them
24 hours a day and most students will develop a social life outside the family too. The key point is that you must be ready to accept the student into your household as you would a family member.
What do I have to provide as a host?
The British Council has developed a code of practice for host families. It sets out the key responsibilities of a host and room requirements. Please see the “Host Responsibilities” tab for details.
As part of the application process, members of the SAMS Accommodation Team will conduct an initial inspection to check whether your house meets all the hosting criteria. Inspections can later take place as announced or unannounced visits. In accepting to be a host, you acknowledge that you could be selected as one of the hosts to be randomly inspected.
How many students can be hosted at a time?
Under British Council rules, the maximum number of students per property at any one time is three. If you have more than one student, they may be of the same nationality so they can provide support to each other at home if necessary. Please note, we expect students to be accommodated in single rooms unless they have requested to share (which is at the host's discretion whether to allow).
How are the students allocated to hosts?
If you apply to become a host, we will ask for a range of information about; you, your home, your family, hobbies and preferences. Similarly, when a student applies for host accommodation, we ask them for information such as
>Medical issues or allergies
>Their dietary requirements
>Their interests and hobbies
>The kind of household they would ideally prefer (e.g. a family with children, a pet-free home etc.)
We will try to allocate accommodation as best as we can to match the requirements of both parties. We would not place a student who smokes with a host who has requested non-smokers only, and students with pet allergies would not be placed with a host with animals. However, we do not take things like personality, background or nationality into account. Therefore, we require the host providers to be flexible in relation to the kind of students they host.
When will the student arrive and how long will they stay with me?
We have international students arriving throughout the year.
There are most often opportunities to accommodate students on a semester basis (e.g. late August through to February or February through to mid-May) as well as a full academic year basis (e.g. late August through to mid-May).
Some students may stay with you over the Christmas and Easter break and may request accommodation throughout the summer holidays. You can choose what arrangement suits you best, tailoring it to adapt to your circumstances or varying arrangements with each new student.
What about meals?
You can decide whether you will be providing meals to the student staying with you. If you agree to provide meals, all we ask our homestay providers is to serve the student the same food that you normally eat. Trying the local cuisine is an important part of understanding a country’s culture!
The only exception is when a student is finding it difficult to adapt to Scottish food. We would then expect that hosts will try to make provision for the student, at least in the short term. An example of this might be a student who is used to a rice-based diet struggling to get used to eating more potato-based meals. It would be reasonable in a situation such as this for the host to provide rice for the student as an alternative on at least some occasions.
Our homestay application form provides an option to select the types of diets the host family would prefer to cater for. We then use this information to match hosts and students. Even where no preferences have been indicated by a family, we would always check with you in advance if a student we were considering placing with you had specific dietary requirements. Please check that your student does not have any food allergies or religious considerations to avoid any confusion.
What happens pre-arrival?
We will put you in touch with the student so you can communicate with them before their arrival. Students are provided with information on how to travel to Oban and are advised to inform their host of their arrival plans.
What should I expect on the day of arrival?
Please remember that students on their arrival may be exhausted from travelling and nervous about the new environment. Try to provide a welcoming atmosphere but also remember that they will need to rest and may not be very communicative.
They may also be shy at first. They will be getting used to a new country, new people, possibly a new climate, and might be a little homesick. Communicate the house rules to the student and remember to include rules on the use of the internet, house landline, laundry facilities, ventilation requirements as well explaining when heating and hot water is available. You should provide the student with a house key on their arrival.
What about communicating with my students?
During the first few weeks, we ask you to be patient and as welcoming to the student as possible. This will help the student to feel at home and settle in. Students may be from a warmer climate so may require more blankets as well as an explanation of your household rules regarding heating and ventilation.
What if there are problems or we have a complaint?
If you have concerns about how you and a student are getting along, or how the student is settling into your home, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unhappy with your student and want them moved out of your home, again please contact us to discuss. If needed, we will make every effort to move the student within four weeks. In an emergency situation, we may be able to move the student sooner than this, but generally, we would expect the host provider to continue accommodating a student until we were able to find alternative accommodation for them.
Similarly, if a student asks to be moved due to dispute with their host, we will respond in a similar way and make alternative arrangements as soon as possible.
In either case, there would be payment implication and for the month when the student would move out you would receive pro-rata payment.
The student will be required to provide a small deposit, which SAMS will administer, it may be available in the unlikely event the student causes any damage within your home. You will need to contact the accommodation team immediately following student departure, at the latest, if you wish to discuss this as a possibility. The deposit amount is limited and is not guaranteed to cover the full costs of any such damage.
What if my student decides to leave unexpectedly?
If there is no dispute between you and your student, yet your student decides they want to leave mid-occupancy, then SAMS will make every effort to ensure they settle the remaining weekly payments due from the date they leave to the end of their agreed occupancy period, however this cannot be guaranteed. SAMS is not liable for any outstanding payments from the student.
What if my student is a no-show?
Hosts should be prepared for a number of eventualities that may stop a student from coming to stay. Reasons could include changes in Covid-19 regulations in their home country, visa issues, education grades, personal circumstances or a last minute change of heart.
It is important to note that the contract between the host and the student in the SAMS Student Host Family Scheme is not binding until the student has enrolled at SAMS and physically arrives at the accommodation.
If your student simply does not show up without any communication please contact the accommodation team as soon as possible.
What are the implications to home insurance, council tax and income tax?
It is important to check with your insurance provider whether or not there will be any impact on your policy due to having a student temporarily living within your household. Hosts are responsible for declaring they will have a student living within their household. SAMS will not accept any responsibility for this.
HMRC allow a certain amount of income to be generated through renting out a room within your home or having a lodger, without Income Tax becoming payable. However, as with all other sources of income, you should always discuss any income you will receive as a host with HMRC.
Full time students are not liable to pay Council Tax and therefore this should not affect the amount you pay as a host. For further information on Council Tax, please contact the Argyll and Bute Council Tax Office.
SAMS will not accept any liability for income tax or other forms of tax that become payable by you as a result of you becoming a host or the income you receive as a hosting provider. It is therefore important that you establish your own position and potential liability before you decide to start or continue as a host.
What is the financial incentive?
Students pay rent in 4 week instalments based on current weekly payment rates for hosts:
>Catered Homestay: Room and half board at £145 per week (includes breakfast, dinner and weekend lunches)
>Self-catering Homestay: Room only at £110 per week. Self-catering provision must be available.
The student payment starts from the first date of occupancy. The last weeks of the student stay with the host will be paid on a pro-rata basis.
These amounts are reviewed on an annual basis, and families are notified of any changes in writing.
How will the payment be made?
Students pay SAMS for their accommodation and the host invoices SAMS for payment by the 15th of every month. SAMS makes payments directly into the host’s bank account by the last day of each month, the first month will be for the number of total weeks the student has stayed in that month, each other month will be for 4 week period stay. In the month the student departs, that month’s payment will be for the balancing amount due.
The Host can request to receive a communication confirming the amount they will receive, the dates the payment covers, and the date on which the first payment will be made at the time the student checks in.
If you are a student who would like to learn more about the opportunities to live with a local family during your studies with us, please email your interest to email@example.com.
The application process
Please note > Successful host applicants will be added to a scheme availability list. The placement of students with host families will depend on demand and suitable matches available.
When we select host providers, we follow an application process that involves a number of stages:
1. Initial enquiry
2. Application form with two references
3. Home visit – from up to two members of the SAMS Accommodation Team
4. Decision on application
Stage 1: Enquiry and gathering all information you need
You will want to collect all relevant information before applying so that you know what you are signing up to. You can get in touch with the SAMS Accommodation Team for a copy of the handbook and to discuss any issues or questions before applying for your hosting status. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stage 2: Submitting application documents
In order to consider you as a host, we will need to receive your completed application form. Part of the process will be checking your character references so you will have to supply us with two referees.
As part of the application process, you and the other members of your household will be asked to declare any criminal convictions, spent or unspent. At a later date, you may be asked to undergo a PVG check.
When you complete the application form, you will be required to sign it to agree to abide by the terms and responsibilities outlined in this booklet.
We will also request the bank account details to enable the payments to be made to you and to enter you on our payments systems.
We aim to work through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible and to inform applicants of the outcome promptly.
Stage 3: Home visit
Once we receive your application and your references have cleared, we will contact you to arrange a convenient time when we can come to look at your property. During a thirty-minute visit, we will assess the suitability of the accommodation and facilities which you are offering for student use. With your consent, we will take photographs of the student bedroom, bathroom and the house surroundings with the aim to give the student the opportunity to see and choose the house where they will stay.
Stage 4: Decision on your application
The decision on your application will be made within ten working days following the inspection. We will contact you in writing to inform you about the outcome.