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I am not slow to criticise Shelter; professionally in a past life, I experienced their inflexible attitude towards landlords, many of whom had behaved with great decency and kindness towards tenants who lied about them, brought the enforcement teams into the property and blackened their name with the local authority.
I reported some time ago that this attitude seemed to be softening and certainly in the North West, there have been major improvements in the way Shelter now perceive the private rented sector. I was invited to an opening event in Manchester, of new offices and was able to see, first hand, how these changes have taken place.
It felt like a victory to accompany a landlady and be introduced as a Private Sector Consultant, without being immediately shown the door! There was a genuine interest and acceptance that the private sector is here to stay and that there should be at least equal weight given to assisting good private landlords as to prosecuting the bad.
There is also no longer a single team, determined to prosecute. There are several teams, looking after the homeless, the Refugee, those that have been deemed poor tenants in the past; these all have different issues which need to be considered.
The Refugee whose English language skills are poor needs a different kind of help to the man who has slept rough for weeks/months/years. The Refugee needs to understand how to live in Britain. I have spoken to more than one who cannot grasp that in Britain, we pay for water.
In their home country, they do not pay for what comes down from the sky, as it was put. But then they do not have the sophisticated water treatments we enjoy, and which keeps us healthy, or the sewerage systems we have to keep our water safe.
The man who has lived on the street may have difficulty in obtaining furniture, keeping on top of bills and may, from a misguided sense of loyalty, bring other homeless in who disturb and distress other people in the building or neighbourhood in which he is housed.
Shelter have addressed this problem and now have a support service; this can be on-going and long-term support; it has been proved to be successful, with much more settled tenants, able to sustain a tenancy and doing so, even after the support is withdrawn.
Their experiences have proved that the short-term support which some charities believe is sufficient, are really only a drop in the ocean, and as one drop in an ocean is hardly noticeable, so is minimal support to someone who has suffered what some of the homeless, the Refugees, the victims of domestic violence have known and feared.
I will not say that this method of working is a national move, because I don’t know that it is; but good practice, successful engagement with the client group, has a way of growing. By all means still be wary of Shelter, but it might also be worth giving them a chance to offer assistance where you have tenants that you seem unable to work with.
If they can’t help, you have at least given them a chance and can still evict.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon