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Jon Sparkes @jon_sparkes Crisis Chief Executive

Reassuring landlords

If you’re homeless, private renting may be your only hope of finding a place to live, particularly if you’re single and don’t qualify for help from your council. Yet new evidence from Crisis suggests that homeless people are finding it harder and harder to secure a private tenancy.

This is a desperate situation to be in: to be ready to move on and start rebuilding your life only to encounter financial barriers and closed doors. And the problem is getting worse. As a survey of 800 landlords conducted for Crisis shows, the vast majority of private landlords now consider it too risky to rent to homeless people and are increasingly reluctant to rent to people supported by benefits.

With growing numbers of people stuck in this homelessness trap, we’ve launched a major new campaign – ‘Home. No Less Will Do’ – calling on the government to take action, and we already have the backing of both the National Landlords Association and the Residential Landlords Association.

This isn’t about criticising landlords. Many are understandably anxious about renting to homeless people – they worry about whether they’ll be able to pay the rent, or if they’ll need more support compared to other tenants. Unfortunately, this perceived risk can become an obstacle to homeless people finding a place to live. We also know from our survey that welfare reforms have added to this reluctance on the part of landlords.

Furthermore, in today’s highly competitive rental market, homeless people have fewer opportunities to rent, and many struggle to afford the upfront costs of a deposit, rent in advance and letting agent fees. A survey of homeless people conducted for Crisis found that nearly three-quarters said these difficulties had prevented them from securing a tenancy.

Yet these problems aren’t insurmountable. We’ve heard from leading landlord associations that their members would be much less reluctant to rent to homeless people if the risks could be better managed. We therefore need to find ways of reassuring landlords while also supporting homeless people to find and sustain a tenancy.

At Crisis, we’ve spent years working with schemes that do just that, and we know that with the right support, this can be a win-win situation for both tenants and landlords. That’s why we’re asking the government to support these sorts of projects with funding and to create and underwrite a national rent deposit guarantee to help homeless people with the upfront costs of renting.

The government already helps first-time buyers struggling for a deposit; it’s only fair they extend this help to those who need it most. It makes good economic sense too. On top of the desperate human tragedy, homelessness is incredibly expensive for the public purse as local services are forced to pick up the pieces. We already have evidence of the cost effectiveness of access schemes, and we believe that combined with a national rent deposit guarantee, they can reduce the overall cost of homelessness.

As a route out of homelessness, private renting is more important than ever before, but it’s clear the sector isn’t working for homeless people. We know what works, the evidence is there; and we have the backing of the country’s leading landlord associations. We just need the government to act.

To find out more and to back the campaign, go to the ‘Home. No Less Will Do’ website.

A version of this blog post first appeared in Inside Housing.