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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Improving access to advice amongst private renters

Effective advice for private renters should incorporate early intervention, self-help tools, partnership working and online services.

This is according to new research by Dr Jennifer Harris. The research looks at the changes to the advice landscape over the past 10 years. It is published by The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (Cache).

Innovation in housing advice for tenants

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the importance of accessible and flexible services. The traditional face-to-face advice interview is not a suitable solution for everyone.

This report discusses examples of innovative advice services across the UK.

  • Online advice chatbot (England)
  • Tenancy sustainment service (Scotland)
  • Tenancy relation service (England)
  • Peer-led housing advice scheme (Northern Ireland)
  • Targeted national advice strategy (Wales)

Factors leading to improved access to advice for private tenants

The report highlights factors that can improve access to advice for private renters.

Time factors

Services must allow for early intervention. They must include well-functioning information and self-help options. These should be relative to the needs and capabilities of the client. Self-help services are less appropriate for those experiencing more complex issues.

Relational factors

Advice and non-advice services must collaborate well to address the problems tenants face. For some target groups, the main advice source will be community organisations.

Practical and technological factors

Services should develop their digital solutions for providing initial advice. Future innovation should look at online triage, interactive and customisable tools.

Symbolic factors

Advice services should demand change in policy and practice in the sector.  Advice services can help to disrupt the distribution of power in the private rented sector.

Recommendations for policy makers

There should be more support for innovative advice services. This should include innovations in face-to-face support.

Investment in longer-term advice and support is necessary for

  • people facing severe disadvantages and
  • people dealing with complex problems.

Organisations may struggle to

  • fund this kind of innovative advice provision
  • connect with non-advice services in order to get the best outcomes for clients.

Further research should investigate the needs of those who do not access online advice services.

Recommendations for advice practitioners

Online services need to be accessible. They should not require a degree of legal or digital skills that make the service exclusive.

There should be clear routes from one channel to another (such as via an online referral system).

Preventative services should identify key intervention points that can trigger homelessness.

Partnerships at the local level are vital.

Tagged In

Research, Private Tenancies

This article was written on 20 May 2021. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.