Decision details

Management of Rents for the Syrian Resettlement scheme

Decision Maker: Director: Adult Social Care

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

The Syrian Resettlement Team delivers the Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) on behalf of the Home Office. The cost of the scheme is fully funded by the Home Office.
The LA identifies a property and pays rent on the property and then the Home Office matches a refugee family from the Middle East and North African region to resettle in the UK. The Home Office budget is used to fund the rent for the property until the new family arrives and is in receipt of benefits. This can be six months full rental costs. In addition the budget funds the deposit and the difference between the rental cost and the tenant contribution and overall the VPRS budget fund 50% of rental costs.
Home Turf Lettings (a subsidiary of DHI Bath) sourced 20 properties to house the first 20 VPRS families and now manage the properties on behalf of landlords. The VPRS pay Home Turf Lettings a management fee which is 20% of the value of the rent for each property. In total £446,040 will have been paid to Home Turf lettings since the inception of VPRS.
From September 2017, the Syrian Resettlement Team decided to source accommodation inhouse. The Syrian Resettlement Team uses the Bristol Credit Union to collect rents from tenants and to make monthly rental payments to landlords. In August 2019, the Syrian Resettlement Team is renting 52 properties owned by private sector landlords. The Bristol Credit Union charges a management fee of £10 per account per month. From January 2018 – August 2019 the Bristol Credit Union have been funded £12,750 for their management fees. In August 2019 the Bristol credit union is managing 61 tenant accounts and 52 landlord accounts.

Decision:

To approve the transfer of £50,000 for outstanding payments due to Home Turf Lettings and allow the transfer of £80,000 to the Bristol Credit Union between September 2019 and December 2019.

Alternative options considered:

It is vitally important that the Bristol VPRS has an effective relationship with landlords. We don’t want to run the risk of landlords withdrawing properties and putting vulnerable families on the street. If the rental payments aren’t managed effectively there would be major complaints from landlords. If the scheme fails to build positive relationships with landlords there is reputational risk with the central government who are expecting the council to manage the needs of the families.
When the tenants arrive, they have high social and medical needs, they do not speak English and they are unfamiliar with managing their tenancies and high levels of support are needed to enable them to manage their tenancies and pay rents. The payment system needs to be personalised to flag Universal Credit payment errors and tenant payment errors to ensure rental income is maximised. The Council's inhouse finance system is not designed to manage this. If rents are not paid on time there are consequences. Private landlords with quality properties can charge market rents which are £400 a month higher than the local housing allowance and the Bristol VPRS rents are based on LHA rates. The landlords choose to rent properties to the Bristol VPRS scheme because the team take most of the risks out of renting to a vulnerable family but if rents are not paid on time, landlords will consider giving notice to quit.

Publication date: 01/10/2019

Date of decision: 27/08/2019