Clarion call to private landlords

THE private sector can play a greater role in reducing homelessness across East Devon – and improved support is there to encourage landlords co-operation.

THE private sector can play a greater role in reducing homelessness across East Devon - and improved support is there to encourage landlords' co-operation.

With an estimated 700 extra homes required a year across the district to meet local housing needs, private landlords are being targeted in a bid to bridge the gap.

A rent deposit scheme, offered through SmartMove, the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance and free legal advice are all being hailed as moves in the right direction.

Michael Joslin, the regional manager of the Rent Evaluation Office, will be the guest speaker at a landlord forum, being held at Knowle, Sidmouth, next month.

The event is being supported by Community Housing Aid, East Devon District Council and the National Landlords' Association, and is open to all landlords and their agents.

The meeting will take place from 6.30pm to 9pm on March 11.

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Phil Keddie, of Sunshine Rentals, is the chairman of the Devon branch of the National Association of Estate Agents.

He is full of praise for the SmartMove rent deposit scheme and its co-ordinator, Carrie Eavis, who works with tenants to help them sustain their tenancies.

"I recognise the scheme, quite simply, because I don't like being exposed to East Devon District Council's control over the tenants," he said.

"With SmartMove, the tenants are referenced by Carrie and we have a recall to her if there is a problem. She has got much greater access to the district council than we have.

"It's a win, win situation."

Since April last year, SmartMove, which is funded by the district council, has dealt with over 100 referrals and successfully accommodated 56 individuals and families, who were threatened with homelessness.

Over 90 per cent of them are still in their tenancies.

More prospective tenants will be able to request direct benefit payments to landlords, thanks to the introduction of new guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Carrie said: "The DWP has understood and listened to campaigners, such as Shelter and Crisis, that there needed to be more options for direct payments. We welcome this positive step forward.

"SmartMove is now able to arrange direct payments of the Local Housing Allowance to landlords for any client referred to the project."

Although the Local Housing Allowance is meant to reflect local market rents, the level set for East Devon is broadly seen as too low.

Carrie said: "This can cause difficulty for some tenants, who then have to find the difference from their own low income.

"SmartMove is extremely pleased Mr Joslin is able to attend the forum and discuss such a key subject that impacts on landlords, tenants and the community.