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Tom Say @yaSmoT Senior Campaigns Officer

Banning letting agent fees is good news for renters but here’s what’s needed to unlock private renting for homeless people.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s announcement that letting agent fees are to be banned in England is great news for renters (assuming costs aren’t passed on to tenants via landlords of course). Here’s what he should do next to unlock private renting for single homeless people.

Locked out of renting
Private renting has its pitfalls but with home ownership and social housing out of reach, it’s often the only option for people trying to escape homelessness.

Yet many are locked out of renting. The average £350 fees are part of the problem but prohibitive upfront costs don’t end there. Tenancy deposits, rent in advance and general moving costs all need to be taken into account.

The table below is taken from a Crisis report earlier this year and shows just how upfront costs add up for single homeless people trying to rent. Researchers used the average housing benefit (or Local Housing Allowance) levels to calculate the average monthly rent in advance and the average deposit (based on an of 5 weeks rent), before adding the average letting agent fee of £350.

rentrise

A survey of homeless people found nearly three-quarters of single homeless people trying to rent said these upfront costs had stopped them from securing a place to rent.

But cost isn’t the only thing locking homeless people out of private renting. As a survey of 800 private landlords conducted for Crisis shows, eight in ten consider it too risky to rent to homeless people.

The key to the door
At Crisis, we’ve spent years working with local projects that support homeless people to find and, crucially, keep a home. To reduce upfront costs, they often offer bonds or guarantees to landlords in place of deposits. They support both landlords and tenants to create homes that last, making it a win-win situation for both.

But these projects aren’t everywhere and many are struggling for funding.

That’s why our Home, No Less Will Do campaign is calling on the government to:

  • fund local projects wherever they are needed to work with landlords to help homeless people rent. The government already knows these projects are cost effective and successful.
  • set up a national rent deposit guarantee for projects to use in place of cash deposits. Underwriting this on a national scale would be more efficient and less confusing than the myriad local deposit schemes currently in operation. It would also free up vital funds for projects to do more of what they do best: supporting homeless people, vulnerable tenants and their landlords.

These are practical solutions based on evidence and experience that are backed by landlord groups and local authorities but will require investment from the Treasury. By banning letting agent fees, the Chancellor has shown himself willing to improve the lives of renters. Will he now go further and unlock private renting for homeless people?

 

Back the campaign
To help our campaign for these proposals – and because they would benefit both groups – we’re asking landlords and people with experience of homelessness to sign our open letter to Housing Minister Gavin Barwell and the Chancellor. Find out more and take action here: www.crisis.org.uk/homenoless