Innovative scheme recruits letting agents to help renters

James Battye

James Battye

Private renters who are struggling with money worries, health or other tenancy sustainment issues are to be given greater access to advice and support to keep their homes as part of an innovative pilot project being launched in the central belt.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland is working with letting agents to develop a ‘Letting Agent Plus’ service aimed at improving access to support which could help tenants access and sustain tenancies in the private rented sector.

It is hoped around a dozen letting agents will participate in the year-long initiative aimed at ensuring those renting privately have as easy access to advice as those in social housing.

The project, Letting Agent Plus, has already started recruiting agents from across the central belt of Scotland who will work with the charity to create the new service. A key element will be improving access to support which could help private tenants to avoid eviction.

James Battye, Shelter Scotland Letting Agent Plus development officer, said: “The private rented sector in Scotland has tripled in size since 1999 and now 350,000 households rent their homes from private landlords, including 91,000 families with children. Private renters are now far more diverse than they were a decade ago, with many tenants requiring some support to sustain their tenancies.”

James added: “Letting agents often encounter difficulties when it comes to finding the right support for tenants who need ongoing or occasional help to keep their home. It is often much easier for tenants of social landlords to access budgeting, money and debt and welfare benefits advice. This support can prevent evictions and improve access to housing but it does not appear to be as readily available to private tenants. Through this project we want to bridge that gap.”

Mike Campbell, managing director of Belvoir Edinburgh and Falkirk letting agents, said: “I warmly welcome this new source of support for private tenants. Real life events are no respecter of tenure and we are all prone to burying our head in the sand. As an advocate of good practice within the private rented sector, I believe that long term, stable tenancies are in everyone’s interests including landlords and agents.”

The Shelter Scotland project is funded by the Oak Foundation and is part of work which seeks to raise standards in the private rented sector by working with landlords, letting agents and tenants.