During consultation as part of the review for the revised Homelessness Strategy, the council were advised that private landlords did not feel that they were listened to and as loss of Assured Shorthold Tenancy (ASTs) was the second highest reason for homelessness, the council asked the LGA to engage with private landlords to identify what could be done to try and prevent/relieve homelessness in the future.
We spoke to landlords, other officers who dealt with private landlords and landlord organisations and provided a report of the findings which included recommendations regarding future working arrangements.
To encourage private landlords to take and maintain tenancies from those in housing need and/or on lower incomes, given the frozen levels of Local Housing Allowance and the introduction of Selective Licensing across the private sector within the City, added to a healthy demand for private rented accommodation to both students and professionals.
The council had already developed a protocol for working with private landlords who were thinking of terminating tenancies and the findings from the report offered suggestions about how this could be tweaked to better meet the needs of landlords and encourage them to sustain tenancies. The main focus here was to find reasons as to why the tenancy wasn’t being sustained, provide measures to enable them to sustain and if circumstances arose whereby the tenant was choosing not to sustain the tenancy or utilise that support, provide assistance to private landlords in ending those tenancies.
During the course of the project the council was successful in securing funding to assist them in their aim of providing a social lettings agency. The report identified that private landlords wanted more information about the tenant they were being asked to consider to enable them to ensure they managed them effectively. The report also provided details of other social lettings agencies operating across the country.
It is not possible at this time, to quantify financially the impact that the suggestions from private landlords will have on the protocol and the social lettings agency. However any engagement with landlords which encourages them not to serve notice and to provide secure accommodation for those that are homeless is going to have an impact on the wellbeing of those utilising the service as well as a financial impact in reducing the use of expensive and inappropriate temporary accommodation.
How is the new approach being sustained?
In terms of the Protocol, this is being sustained financially by the council as part of its Housing Options Service. The social lettings agency has received some funding to assist the council in its development.
Within the Housing Options Service it is clear that generally, since the introduction of the Protocol, private landlords are being listened to and engaged with. This encourages landlords to work with the council. By listening to the landlords, the council has been able to identify and implement some of their requests and have put measures in place to encourage ongoing dialogue with private landlords in the future, particularly where they are considering ending tenancies.