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Social acceptance

publication date: Jun 16, 2010
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Damon ThomasNew research reveals that 78.3 per cent of respondents think that the Government should do more to resolve the shortage of housing by minimising the time people spend on council housing waiting lists. Respondents also said that if they were in need of council housing, 79.2 per cent would rather consider options that allowed them to rent from a private landlord.

The research was carried out by FastTrak, an organisation which supplies letting agents with pre-qualified, insurancebacked social tenants, to identify current attitudes towards social housing and how the situation is likely to develop.

The results show a very negative attitude to the UK’s social housing situation:
• 68.9 per cent believe there is a shortage of council housing in the UK – only 8.5 per cent believe this doesn’t apply to their local area
• 65.4 per cent expect the social housing situation to get worse in the future
• 72.9 per cent think there is a degree of social stigma attached to living in a council home rather than private accommodation
• 83.3 per cent don’t know what Local Housing Allowance is.

Damon Thomas, MD of FastTrak, told PROPERTYdrum, “The research highlights the shocking housing situation. When four out of five people would rather turn to the private rented sector than rely on local housing authorities, it’s a sure sign that the system isn’t working properly. Significantly, the same people have very little faith in the situation improving. Councils simply don’t have enough housing stock to meet demand and Housing Authorities are unable to fill the gap, which is why more tenants that have a housing need, many of whom are in employment and don’t fit the traditional social housing stereotypes, are approaching private landlord and agents.
It’s imperative that lettings agents recognise that there is a solution that allows them to identify good tenants from this sector and avoid losing potential revenue. Our tenants actually bring benefits; for example, longer tenures and increased protection against rent arrears.”

FastTrak tenants undergo a full two stage pre-qualification of their entitlement to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and an independent assessment of ‘top-up’ affordability in addition to conventional tenant referencing. This ensures that only quality tenants are accepted. The company also provides insurance backed guarantees which eliminates traditional difficulties associated with Housing Benefit tenants.

It all sounds great, but after decades of dealing with landlords who are anti housing benefit tenants, does the scheme actually work? PROPERTYdrum asked Fast Trak agents whether they have had a good response from landlords.

FastTrakClaire Kingsford, Field Manager at Xperience, a franchise with branches across the UK, said, “We wanted an innovative solution for the many people who visit our offices who are claiming housing benefits, not only to assist them but also to increase our income as majority of landlords will not accept housing benefit claimants. Fast Trak has increased our business by offering properties to those who would normally be turned away, it also enhances the profiles of our branches.”

While landlords may have shied away from local authority schemes, the most obvious benefit is that the tenancies are generally longer, removing costly voids. This has been an advantage that, says Chris Mooney, of Eastbourne Lettings in Sussex, landlords have found attractive:

“We’ve been working with Fast Trak for six months now and are very pleased with the service. We’re not only being offered good quality tenants, but they are all pre-qualified and this very attractive for us. With regards to the clients we work with, they’ve snapped it up! They can see the genuine potential of the scheme and are particularly taken by the guaranteed payments angle and the fact that social tenants tend to take up longer term tenancies. At the end of the day, there isn’t another scheme like this which really can deliver increased revenues.”

Finally, Jan Gurr, Senior Residential Lettings Manager at Caxtons in Kent says that the scheme has increased business:
“Fast Trak’s offering is innovative in its approach and is definitely one of the best schemes out there. We’ve worked with them since the beginning of the year and have been very impressed with how the system has worked. The tenants are of a high quality and the fact that they are pre-vetted is incredibly helpful, not least because it speeds up the process. We have had many enquiries from landlords, most of whom are drawn to the rent guarantee aspect of the scheme. We’re definitely in favour of the scheme as it’s benefiting us, our clients and the tenants.”