Campaigns Tim Thomas 14/03/2022

Blog: Engaging with Chorley landlords on adaptations in the private rented sector

Our Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer and adaptations campaign lead, Tim Thomas, recently gave a presentation to the Chorley Landlords Forum on the growing market for adapted properties in the private rented sector (PRS) and what support is on offer for landlords.

Here Tim gives his initial thoughts on his expectations of landlords' attitude towards adapting properties, some areas landlords found particularly interesting and the future of the NRLA’s campaign to improve access to the privately rented homes for older and disabled people.

There is an widespread perception that landlords are not interested in adapting their properties, and that they are often standing in the way of tenants who want to make their homes more suitable for their needs.

This is often identified by the poor take up of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) – the grant funding used to finance major adaptations in people’s homes - in the sector. With 380,000 PRS households currently headed by a person aged 65 and over, a number which is expected to double by 2046, the take up of only 8% of DFG funding making its way to PRS tenants indicates the lack of awareness around the funding available.

Moving aside these statistics for the time being my initial concerns ahead of the meeting was that landlords would be unwilling to engage on this topic especially as they are facing increased financial and legislative challenges.

Much to my surprise, around half of landlords present had experience of letting to tenants with adaptation needs. Those, who to the best of their knowledge, are not letting to tenants with adaptation needs were extremely interested in support on offer to adapt their homes as a future possibility.

Most people are aware that the population of England and Wales is ageing. However, Chorley landlords were surprised by the extent to which more older and disabled tenants are accessing the PRS, which is driven in part by the growing difference between supply and demand in social housing.

Landlords’ perceptions of adaptations

There was some debate about the distinction between ‘minor’ and ‘major’ adaptations, and the complexities that this presents when operating in a ‘two tier’ local government landscape as experienced in Lancashire.

When thinking about what an adaptation meant, landlords commonly assumed that they were extremely costly, clinical in design and would be inconvenient after the tenancy has ended.

There was a significant amount of debate which changed the perception of landlords that the most typical types of adaptation were small in nature. ‘Minor’ adaptations are generally inexpensive and could include items such as a raised toilet seats or a grab rail. They are the most common form of adaptation and can be implemented quickly while the tenant lives in the property. Landlords aren't required to fund adaptations themselves - although they can choose to do so, or to top up local authority funding to install more stylish options.

Even the more expensive adaptations are unlikely to be out of reach for landlords. While knowledge of the Disabled Facilities Grant was limited, it was highlighted as a viable option to fully fund even the most major examples of adaptations – stairs lifts, wet rooms, and improved access –  provided the property has a tenant that requires them.

The DFG can cover adaptations for up to £30,000. However, Chorley offer additional discretionary funding of a top up of £10,000 which landlords believed made adapting their property financially viable.

Landlords’ experiences of letting to a tenant with adaptation needs

One of the landlords who had experience of letting to a tenant with adaptation needs said that it was a positive experience and that he would certainly consider it in the future.

He said this could be made easier if the council worked in partnership with him in finding prospective tenants that require adaptations. This was acknowledged by Chorley Council, and it was also discussed that the improved design in adaptations that make them look more visually appealing and stylish to all tenants would help keep adaptations in situ between tenancies.

Improve collaborative working to place tenants would help bridge the gap between local authorities and landlords who operate in those localities by improving communication and positive action between them.  

Future work between pilot authorities

Chorley is of course one of the five local pilot authorities we are working with in partnership with to raise awareness of the DFG and the benefits of adapting properties in the PRS.

The others participating in the pilot are Plymouth, Swansea, Islington, and Newcastle which are likely to have both similar problems and unique barriers in their locality.

Since the pandemic, local authorities have had many challenges in continuing to engage with private landlords with landlord forums often being moved online or paused. I very much look forward to using a variety of methods to engage with landlords in the other areas.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be engaging with other pilot authorities' local landlord forums, working with the local media to promote the campaign and setting up social media assets for local authorities to use to engage with landlords.

We are also keen to work with local authorities outside of the pilot scheme, so please get in touch to start the discussion on how we can engage with landlords on the benefit of adapting their properties at policy@nrla.org.uk

We would equally like to hear from any landlords who have a positive story of their experience of adapting their property and supporting tenants with adaptation needs. You can share your story with us via our campaigns page.

Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer

Tim Thomas is the Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer for the NRLA. With almost fifteen years’ experience in policy and research roles in local authorities and the third sector, Tim takes a leading role on our campaigns to improve access to the Private Rented Sector. Tim’s campaigns have included campaigns to tackle homelessness, supporting the Afghan resettlement programme and promoting adaptations to private rented accommodation for tenants who require them.

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