18 May 2023

People renting privately across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole who find themselves struggling as a result of the cost-of-living crisis are being offered free support to maintain their tenancies from Let’s Talk Renting – a major drive to prevent homelessness.

Funded by BCP Council, Let’s Talk Renting is being launched by the Homelessness Partnership BCP with expert advice provided by Citizens Advice BCP and other partners – illustrating how partnership working can support private tenants who are in rent arrears or at risk of eviction.

At the heart of the campaign is a new Let’s Talk Renting leaflet, signposting residents to the many avenues of support available across the BCP area. The leaflets can be found at job centres, food banks, libraries, churches, children’s centres and many community sites.

Let’s Talk Renting launched in April at Poole’s Dolphin Centre and was supported by representatives from across the Homelessness Partnership BCP.

Worried about housing

Chair of the Partnership Forum, Alistair Doxat-Purser, said: “Many of us who work for charities and agencies hear the following far too often at the moment: ‘I’m really worried about my housing’.

“So, we are combining our resources to make a difference. Let’s Talk Renting is all about encouraging private tenants to seek help as soon as issues arise.

“Helping people to remain in their homes is one of the best ways of reducing homelessness. We’re asking everyone to spread the word about the campaign and let’s get talking about renting,” Alistair added.

Ben Tomlin, Head of Housing Options at BCP Council, said: “Rising rents and bills are placing unprecedented pressure on BCP residents’ finances, raising the risk of eviction and homelessness if households fall into arrears.

“We know that families who receive support and assistance early, if they are worried about their housing, experience less than half as many episodes of homelessness than people who don’t.

“It is crucial that support is available for tenants, and I would encourage anyone who needs help to pick up a leaflet and get in touch.”

Let's Talk Renting
Increasing risk of homelessness

During January and February 2023, Citizens Advice BCP saw a 100% increase in issues around threatened homelessness and a 75% increase in problems with rent arrears.

Crucially, there was an 82% increase in issues for private rental sector tenants, compared to a 63% rise in issues for housing association property tenants.

Citizens Advice BCP stated that the South West has the highest number of clients being helped with private rental sector eviction issues per month out of the whole of the UK, highlighting that “nationally, private sector renters are paying 43% more rent than those in social housing, with a higher risk of deficit budgets”.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter warned last autumn that almost a million private renters were under the threat of eviction. Its research found that one in 12 private renters in England (equivalent to 941,000 people) were at risk of losing their home.

Shelter claimed that a quarter of private renters (equivalent to 2.8 million people) were “constantly struggling to pay their rent” – up by 24% compared to the same period last year.

Kate Parker, Strategic Lead at Shelter in Dorset, said: “At Shelter we see the consequences when a tenancy goes wrong, and the disruption and cost that losing a home can have on all involved. Getting help and advice early can make all the difference.”

Let’s Talk Renting recognises the soaring cost of tenancies

Research from Zoopla found the number of homes available to rent in the UK has fallen by a third over the past 18 months, driving up rents for new tenants by 11%.

The January 2023 Index of Private Housing Rental Prices UK, from the Office for National Statistics, claimed that private rental prices paid by tenants rose by 4.4% in the 12 months to January 2023.

Alan Kenny, of the DWP Housing Partnership, told how a previous Let’s Talk Renting initiative in 2020 saw the team rescue at-risk tenancies.

Alan said: “After Let’s Talk Renting became involved, our customers managed to keep their homes and we prevented rent arrears, so everyone benefited from this campaign.”

To find out more about Let’s Talk Renting, please visit the web page at www.bit.ly/ltr2023.