A local authority has started a one-year trial of a ‘social lettings agency’ which aims to match those at risk of homelessness with vacancies in the private rental sector.
Croydon council has set up Croydon Lettings, targeted at tenants who have either been homeless or are at risk of being unable to sustain a long-term tenancy, and at private sector landlords who want a guaranteed rent.
The agency has launched initially with around 20 tenants and 12 landlords, and works by giving the prospective tenants the skills to maintain a long-term tenancy before they are matched with a private landlord.
The six-week training for prospective tenants, provided by the council’s Gateway welfare service, includes:
- Financial management, including budgeting advice, benefits support and help setting up their rent payments by direct debit;
- Tips on how to keep their property in good condition and report issues to the landlord;
- Wider employability training to boost their job prospects and earning potential.
Croydon Lettings also gives tenants a month’s rent and deposit in advance to reduce moving costs, and it sets up the tenants’ council tax and utility bill accounts.
It claims landlords benefit by getting a wider pool of vetted tenants, a guaranteed rent, paying no charges to the council unlike with high street lettings agents, a named contact at the council, and a reduced need to take legal action against tenants.
“Debt, mental health problems and learning difficulties can increase some people’s risk of homelessness. To prevent this, the council has set up a social lettings agency – not to collect rent or referral fees, but to give both local residents the know-how and support to have longer, happier tenancies, and to give responsible landlords a more secure supply of rental income” says a council spokeswoman.
Publicity for the new scheme quotes local landlord Tracey Collinson who signed up to the council agency after her last tenant did not pay rent for six months and she needed a more reliable person to rent her two-bedroom flat in Selhurst.
“Everything is geared around trying to make it a good working relationship between us, the tenant and the council” says the landlord.