The National Landlords Association (NLA) has challenged homeless charities and agencies to think more like landlords to help the homeless in to private housing.
The comments were made by chief executive Richard Lambert, at the Homelessness Link National conference: Under One Roof (8 July 2014) to discuss how to enable greater access to affordable housing for the homeless.
Lambert said that, with the number of landlords prepared to home the vulnerable, homeless and ‘hard to house’ diminishing, homeless agencies needed to look beyond simply supporting their client to supporting and sustaining the tenancy.
He cited recent reductions to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and the removal of direct payments as the main drivers behind a decreasing confidence in providing homes for the vulnerable.
Lambert outlined three main areas for agencies to focus their efforts:
Pre-tenancy assurances – most homeless people will not pass standard referencing checks so what can be done do to provide landlords with as much knowledge as possible, so they know who they are dealing with and whether they can cope?
Mitigating the risk – what can be provided in the way of deposit bonds or financial incentives that would provide the equivalent sense of reassurance that the financial risk is covered in the worst case scenario?
Support for sustaining the tenancy – how and what kind of support can be offered from the very start – and throughout – so the tenant understands what is expected of them and knows what to do if they encounter any issues or difficulties?
“Renting homes is a business and unfortunately many landlords see renting to the homeless as too much of a risk. Very few landlords start letting with the intention of providing a social service and only the experienced landlords are set up to be able to let to this market,” said Lambert, “The question is “what can be done to increase landlords’ confidence in letting to the homeless and most vulnerable?”
“It is not enough simply to get a roof over someone's head and consider the job done - things must be set up from the start so that the tenancy is in the best position to be sustained. Homeless agencies must be able to provide the assurances and safeguards that landlords seek, which means thinking about their needs as well as the tenant’s.
“Deposit bonds that mitigate some of the financial risk; support and training throughout the tenancy for both landlord and tenant; and more in-depth tenant referencing so the landlord has an idea of who they are dealing with; these are all examples of things that would go some way to increasing confidence and the supply of available and affordable homes for the ‘hard to house’."