The Art of Creating Sustainable Lettings (AKA The Pre-Tenancy Service)
When I used to allocate properties in the “good old days”, I’d ring the local authority to ask for a nomination. As if by magic, a day (or so…) later the office fax machine would whirr into life and there would appear - on that thin, slightly crinkly fax paper of yester-year - 3 names of potential tenants / customers – or “city noms” as we so charmingly referred to them in those days.
With the scant information – name of nomination, numbers, genders and ages of children - from that sometimes barely legible fax, I let my voids as quickly as I could. I had a good relationship with my in-house voids team and the local authority allocations department and mostly pleased my managers by meeting that Prince of KPIs: The Voids Lettings Target.
You will have deduced from my Methuselah-like meanderings (and references to fax machines…) that this was all a good number of years ago.
Today, as a freelance consultant, when I go in to social housing organisations to review allocations and lettings services, I look for evidence of pre-tenancy work being an integral part. Why? In a nutshell, because I have realised that the Prince of KPIs is, in fact, trumped by the King and Queen of KPIs: The Tenancy Sustainability Target.
I’ve realised that it’s a fool’s game to bust a gut to get the voids let as quickly as possible if no consideration is given to “how can we minimise the chances of that property becoming void again?”
And there you have the rationale for the pre-tenancy service: what can you as the landlord do to work with applicants (agreed that they are an easier category than nominations!) to create sustainable tenancies?
As a bare minimum, you want to know that a new tenant can afford to pay the rent. One organisation I worked with told me that they did the rental affordability check at the post-sign up visit, 4-6 weeks after the tenancy had started. They had just visited a new tenant the week before I was there, and the affordability check showed that the tenant couldn’t afford to pay the rent. Stable doors, horses anyone…?
But rent is only part of the picture of a creating sustainable tenancies: what about having the skills to manage a home or to manage money? What about access to furniture? What about training, skills and employment opportunities – improving life chances?
How many landlords are quantifying the risk of the likelihood of tenancy failure (and all the cost that that incurs) and doing something about it or just basking in the reflected glory of having met the Prince of KPIs…?
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