Our friends at Havant Borough Council struggle to find homes for some of their more difficult residents, whether due to their history or just their current circumstances and the shortage of accommodation available. They approached us to help them understand what they could do to improve the situation for these families and individuals. Part of our response follows…
"…you are already aware of what you are up against convincing landlords to offer PRS property to those on your list. I speak from personal experience but I have also consulted a number of members. Most of the problems we face are Government imposed so there is little you can do to alleviate them. You may also be interested in research by Manchester Metropolitan University into why PRS landlords are evicting so many tenants that will be published soon. They have also looked at the impact of welfare reform including the LHA rates.
Re your ideas, my colleagues and I were impressed to see you are looking at a broad range of incentives, understood that this may need HBC investment and were prepared to ask us for our opinion.
Despite the obstacles a number of members do still take claimants and some already work with you but I suspect numbers are in decline. Some have property that is at what we might call the HB end of the market. Others have altruistic motivations.
Reduce the risk to landlords income
As you say your tenants biggest problem is finding a guarantor or passing a credit check. This has grown in recent years with the advent of rent guarantee insurance. This is very popular with agents but can be taken out by those of us managing our own property. It only costs £60 per year per tenant. It not only covers unpaid rent but also the cost of repossessing the property if the tenant fails to meet their responsibilities. (See https://www.alanboswell.com/landlord-insurance/rent-guarantee/). The insurer assesses the risks and sets the conditions under which cover is offered. Most landlords have mortgages to pay and the rent may be their only income. The closer you can get to reducing the risk in this way the more attractive your tenants will be.
Prepare tenants for the PRS
In terms of simpler incentives, the general view is that little gestures or financial incentives to the landlord are less likely to be effective than improving the tenant, so tenant training and tenancy support would be worth a try. Personally, I like people who have owned their own home at some stage because they understand the value of the property, any furniture and fittings and how to look after it. It is amazing how many tenants especially young first timers have no clue regarding their responsibilities and what costs are associated with renting.
Improve money management skills
There will always be a problem with those who consider that toys for the children, big fancy TVs and even overseas holidays are a higher priority than paying the rent. A colleague in the North East (where unemployment is much higher) did a survey and all the landlords asked were found to have smaller televisions than their tenants. One tenant was asked by the Council where her housing benefit had gone and she quite frankly replied that she had needed it for her holiday in Florida. I don"t know if these cultural issues can be addressed by professional support workers.
Offer ongoing support
I am not familiar with HBC policy but I do know many Local Authorities have, in the past, advised tenants who have not been paying their rent that the council will not step in until the bailiff is on his way. This has put many landlords off taking tenants with less secure incomes or low incomes and no guarantor. The Homelessness Reduction Bill should prevent this in future but affected landlords who have lost thousands of pounds evicting tenants for non-payment will not take the risk again. If you could guarantee support for the tenant as soon as the tenancy starts to fail it would improve our confidence.
The problem with the council paying a bond or deposit for the tenant is that there is no incentive for the tenant to leave the property in a good state when they leave. If it is a loan to be repaid it is better assuming the payments are affordable and are collected. A bond must be a fair bit more than one month"s rent as there is a tendency for tenants to stop paying rent a month before they leave and tell the landlord to take the rent from the deposit.
Sell the benefits of your client group
I probably have a prejudiced view of your client group because I only hear the tales of failed relationships. The Council should seek out and publicise success stories. Perhaps produce stats on how few tenancies fail and especially how your client group can become long term tenants. One thing we do not like is churn (high turnover). Finding good tenants is costly, time consuming and risky. Unfortunately, some agents have given the industry a bad reputation because they make money from fees etc and like high turnover. Hopefully legislation to ban fees will end this.
Rent in advance
You mention RIA but I am not familiar with this acronym. Perhaps you mean rent in advance. This would help. The norm in the PRS is for rent to be paid in advance and HB being in arrears has always been an issue for landlords but in itself it would not be a policy changer for landlords like myself.
Help us help you
We all know that Government policy is what you are really up against. Sadly, they are not listening to landlords so if you really want to make a difference you should take the evidence before you to politicians. (I do understand that is risky business for civil servants but….)
I will end with recounting my last tenant search. I put an ad" online (for about £50). The rent was £575 for a one bed flat which was average at the time. (LHA was only £500). Within a day I received 11 enquiries. Many of the applicants were effectively homeless though probably not in your stats. I had to take the ad" down as soon as I could. I met and personally interviewed three potential tenants. I picked a mature nurse who was sleeping in her daughters overcrowded rented property. I hardly had time to check the property over before she wanted to move in. Her rent is my pension. She has been with me for 3 years and some months I do not even check her rent is in. What can you do to make me more comfortable risking my income by accommodating your client group?
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