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David Smith @RLA_News Policy Director at the Residential Landlords Association

Homeless people can make great tenants. What landlord could ask for more?

Unfortunately, a great many private landlords are not prepared to let to tenants in receipt of state benefits. Perceiving them as higher risk and not prepared to accept that risk in relation to a small portfolio of only one or two properties they turn to those in full employment instead.

A similar view is taken of those who are homeless but with a perception that their previous history makes them an even greater risk.

Homeless people may well have greater support needs in a tenancy and there are challenges in meeting these. However, having experienced the lack of a home, they value the chance to have one that much more and can therefore make great tenants.

Increasingly, there are valuable access schemes that can provide the support needed by homeless and vulnerable people to get over difficulties, understand their rights and obligations, and maintain their tenancies.

There is clear evidence that where such schemes are in place and operating effectively with private landlord buy-in they are effective in creating and maintaining tenancies in the private sector over the long-term.

However, the creation of access schemes alone is not enough. A bad access scheme may do more damage than not having one at all. A good scheme which:

  • engages directly with landlords and provides them with a clearly identified contact;
  • provides support where tenants are not fulfilling their obligations; and
  • assists less experienced landlords with high quality advice and assistance to let and manage their property;

is a must. Where an access scheme fails on one or more of these areas it will lose the trust of private landlords and will end up attracting the worst landlords and least attractive property.

Private landlords already house a significant proportion of the UK population and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This does not just require housing the traditional markets of students and young professionals but housing all of the UK population and the market must adapt to enable better access to those traditionally excluded from the sector.

High quality access schemes that assist tenants and provide a recognised quality mark to landlords are a key factor in opening the private rental sector up to homeless and vulnerable tenants and encouraging private landlords to rent to them.

Ultimately private landlords are interested in tenants who fulfil three simple criteria:

  1. paying the market rent;
  2. staying in the property and behave satisfactorily over the long term;
  3. not damaging the property and reducing its value.

Where access schemes are in place supporting homeless and vulnerable people these criteria can be met reliably and consistently. What landlord could ask for more?

The RLA support’s the ‘Home. No Less Will Do’ campaign.