A strong and sustainable private rental sector is vital to tackling the homeless issue in Fife. With council stock stretched, it is often the only option available to tenants. But with the cost-of-living crisis worsening, more and more people are finding they’re struggling to maintain rent payments and many are unsure of what support is available or how to access it.
Some Courier online content is funded by outside parties. The revenue from this helps to sustain our independent news gathering. You will always know if you are reading paid-for material as it will be clearly labelled as “Partnership” on the site and on social media channels,
This can take two different forms.
This means the content has been paid for and produced by the named advertiser.
“In partnership with”
This means the content has been paid for and approved by the named advertiser but written and edited by our own commercial content team.
Add to this the fact that many letting agents and landlords are struggling with recent changes to housing legislation and you’ve got a combustible mix which can only exacerbate homeless problems in Fife.
The Fife Private Rental Resolutions Service, a branch of homeless charity Trust in Fife, aims to address this dilemma.
Whether it’s help to access accommodation in the private rental sector, advice and support, assistance with rent arrears or anything else, FPRS can help.
Neither is it only for vulnerable tenants or those on benefits. FPRS has a range of services to assist landlords, letting agents and indeed anyone struggling in Fife’s private rental sector.
Caroline McCall, chief executive officer of Trust in Fife, says: “We’ve got an open-door policy where we will help with anything we can in the private rented sector and if we can’t help then we’ll refer them to a person who can. We’re a one-stop shop and our service is there for all people who require it.”
So how can FPRS help to prevent people becoming homeless in Fife?
A bespoke service for letting agents
FPRS provides a free service to help letting agents keep tenants in their properties. It can source new funds, mediate between parties and devise payment plans. In each case this package can be tailored to the client’s particular needs.
A particularly effective part of its offering is the Advanced Income Maximisation (AIM) service. This programme helps tenants in the private rental sector increase their income and thereby keep up their payments. Already it has assisted 24 people in getting backdated benefits to the value of £55,722.60. Another 39 people saw an increase in their monthly benefits to the value of £17,119.63.
On top of that, FPRS offers The Rent Resolution Service (RRS) which helps tenants who have fallen into arrears. The offering includes mediation, manageable payment plans and sourcing of grants.
Caroline adds: “We’re offering free bespoke services to letting agents to help them sustain their accommodation. We will support anybody that needs help either for them as a tenant or for their relationship with the tenant to sustain their position in the private rented sector and prevent them from becoming homeless.”
Helping landlords navigate maze of new legislation
Many landlords are struggling with the impact of the recent Cost of Living Act, which limited rent rises to 3% and put restrictions on the eviction process.
FPRS can help them address any issues. Expert staff will provide advice and guidance with all issues relating to the Private Rented Sector. This will include completing mandatory paperwork such as a Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) or a Notice to Leave (NTL) to carrying out inspections. As an ethical letting agency, Fife Private Rental Solutions can complete these services at a relatively small fee.
Senior housing consultant Ben Moffatt says: “Landlords are so confused with changes in legislation. They’re asking for advice and being told, ‘Here’s a website, find out what to do.’. With us being a registered letting agent, we can actually sit down and do it with them. We can be a bit more hands on. Some things may have a small cost but the things we do are all non-profit, so everything goes back into ensuring the sustainability of tenants within the private rented sector.”
Stopping tenants from becoming homeless in Fife
The principal aim of FPRS is to prevent people becoming homeless in Fife. With this in mind, FPRS offers a range of services to vulnerable tenants.
Qualified staff can assist with property searching, income maximisation and preparing for the start of a tenancy. They can help with a deposit and paying rent in advance to secure a tenancy. In addition, if a tenant needs housing support, the team can refer them to Fife Councils Short Term Housing Support service.
In a recent case, a tenant had received a Notice to Leave for recurrent rent arrears. After years of unsettled employment due to her child’s ill health, she was now in secure work and desperate to stay in her home. However, she had been unable to catch-up with the current debt and was unaware of the benefits system, so was not sure if she was entitled to any help.
There had also been a change of letting agent management which caused a breakdown in communications because the “keyworkers” assigned to her case kept changing.
The AIM service looked at her income and expenditure, helped her claim benefits and drew up a budgeting plan.
Staff negotiated with the letting agent and arranged for the NTL to be withdrawn if all or some of the rent debt was cleared with funding. They also agreed on improved communication so the agent was able to discuss any issues with the tenant and get access for planned maintenance and inspection.
The tenant was able to pay off the rent debt in full. A payment plan was also set up so she could pay back the funding at a manageable amount – unrelated to on-going rent payments.
The agent and tenant also restored communications, with inspection and maintenance dates agreed.
Meanwhile, staff helped the tenant complete applications for top-up benefits and enhanced benefits due to health conditions.
Afterwards, the agent said: “I will encourage my tenants to contact FPRS if they require advice or assistance. I think this is a great service for tenants finding themselves in a difficult situation, sometimes they don’t know where to turn for help.”
Find out more about FPRS and its work to prevent people becoming homeless in Fife.