Two entrepreneurs with years of experience of dealing with housing benefits and recovering rent arrears have launched an innovative letting agency for landlords with tenants on benefits.
Claire Turner and Liz Poxon are capitalising on years of experience first with Sheffield City Council and later as landlords themselves.
Their new business, the Landlord Letting Network – www.landlordlettingnetwork.co.uk – aims to help landlords maximise rental income and minimise tenant arrears.
The duo are also building on the work done by Claire’s existing business, the Landlord Information Network, which provides training and advice for council and housing association staff as well as private landlords.
Claire says there are more than 36,000 private rented properties in the Sheffield area and one in three of those properties will be let to tenants on benefits.
A series of major changes to the benefit system, allied to the problems people on benefits may already be facing, is leading an increasing number of landlords nationwide refusing to let to people on benefits.
But, Claire and Liz argue that, with the right help, tenants on benefits can be a more stable source of income than tenants who aren’t.
The answer, they say, is to carefully assess the needs of potential tenants and ensure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to – which often they aren’t.
Using their expertise, Claire and Liz ensure the tenant’s benefit claims are filled in correctly and all the supporting documents are present, before submitting them to the appropriate authorities.
They have also found ways of ensuring essential outgoings like rent get paid in full and on time, helping, among other things, the local Credit Union to develop a “Jam Jar Account” which enables hard-pressed local people to put money they receive into different ‘pots’ to pay for rent, tax, bills and savings.
The duo, who started buying and letting low cost homes themselves several years ago as a way of augmenting their pensions, have tried out their ideas on their own properties.
Successes have included re-housing one young carer who had been evicted from a council house with £3,000 in rent arrears and finding a way of ensuring they haven’t fallen back into debt.
They have even succeeded in accessing special funds that help people on benefits to buy a low-cost computer and get connected to the internet so that they can manage their finances online, which also ensures regular rent payments.
“You have to assess each individual’s needs and some need a lot of managing,” says Claire.
“Having done it for ourselves, we decided to use that experience to set up a letting agency for landlords that will also be supporting their tenants.”