With thousands of tenants facing difficulties getting a new tenancy because of rent arrears due to the pandemic, one scheme run by Nottingham City Council aims to provide a solution, says Tom Entwistle.
A recent survey funded by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) reveals that over 200,000 tenants in England are facing severe difficulties in getting new landlords to accept them as tenants because of their bad credit records. This is, in the main, due to rent arrears accumulated because of the pandemic.
Many landlords are struggling financially because they have experienced a drop in income during the pandemic.
There’s little in the way of financial support for private residential landlords facing difficulties, which means that as the evictions ban is lifted many will be looking to evict and get new tenants in their properties with good credit records.
This in turn leaves tenants in arrears struggling to find new accommodation. Whilst the Scottish and Welsh governments have recently announced generous debt support measures to help tenants in arrears, the NRLA claims that in England the government has failed to provide tenants with the help they need.
However, some help may be available through local authorities. One support scheme being offered by Nottingham City Council has found over 400 homeless households somewhere to live over the past 12 months.
The council’s Nottingham Private Rented Assistance Scheme (NPRAS) is working with individual tenants and families to help find them homes to rent. By providing support and incentives to landlords in the City the schemes has been successful in placing a large number of tenants who find themselves unable to secure a tenancy.
The council scheme has been providing these tenants with help to search for accommodation throughout the city and negotiating on their behalf with both private landlords and letting agents.
Training sessions have been provided for tenants to prepare them for the process of obtaining and maintaining a successful tenancy.
These sessions include education on the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord, how to claim housing and other benefits, the importance of regular and timely rent payments, and how to carry out basic repairs such as unblocking sinks and toilets and bleeding radiators.
Deposits and rent
The Council can provide help with deposits and rent payments in advance, and council officers can even accompany tenants with viewings.
Tenants are guided through the process of completing application forms and meeting the requirements for the applicant checks and referencing.
The council carries out inspections making sure that homes are safe and legally compliant, and helps with inventory sign-offs.
There is also support for landlords within the scheme, offering free help to landlords as and when any issues arise within the tenancy. Council officers will work with both landlord and tenant to try to prevent evictions, resulting in individual tenants and families finding themselves out on the streets.
There is a mediation scheme for rent arrears, disrepair issues, anti-social behaviour and support with Universal Credit.
Cllr Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage (pictured), says: “There are many reasons why people may become homeless, such as a landlord needing to sell their property, rent increases meaning a home may be unaffordable, loss of a job causing mortgage or rent arrears, domestic abuse and family breakdown or harassment.
“Credit problems such as County Court judgements and bankruptcy are increasingly becoming barriers to housing too. Increasingly we’re finding working families are having to live temporarily in hostels and hotels because they’ve been unable to find a privately rented home due to repeatedly failing credit checks.
“Our team works to make sure that people and families can move into safe and affordable homes and we support landlords to have a smooth tenancy.”