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Domestic abuse in the PRS: A matter of life and death

Nearly two million people in the UK suffer from some form of domestic abuse every year, including more than 100,000 who are at high or imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured by their partner or ex-partner. With such high numbers, it stands to reason that many landlords are likely to house a victim or indeed a survivor of domestic abuse at some stage.

The Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, (DAHA), is a partnership between 3 organisations, (Gentoo, Peabody and Standing together against Domestic Violence), leading change in the Housing Sector’s response to domestic abuse. Founded in 2014, DAHA’s overarching mission is to ensure that ‘Housing’ improves its response to domestic abuse with the roots of DAHA mainly focused on Social Housing. DAHA is now extending its reach to look at how domestic abuse awareness and the necessary improved response can be addressed in the PRS – which is where you come in!

DAHA believes that Landlords and Agents have a vital part to play through raising awareness of domestic abuse and equipping landlords to be able to support anyone who is experiencing this.  It’s not proposed that landlords directly intervene and offer the same response as a social housing provider, but signs and opportunities to help and support should not be ignored with the reassurance of knowing that there is specialist help and support out there and available.

The facts:
One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and 8% will suffer in any given year according to the crime survey for England and Wales 2017/18. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner and 130,000 children live in homes where there is a high risk of domestic abuse.  This vastly hidden and under reported crime is as likely to happen in the PRS as any other form of housing and the consequences of ignoring a situation could be fatal.

What is domestic abuse?
Although not currently defined in statute domestic abuse is broadly defined as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those 16 or over who have been or are intimate partners, family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. It encompasses but is not limited to physical, psychological, emotional, financial or sexual abuse.

What help and support is out there for Landlords in the PRS?
DAHA has been working on a national project for the past two years across the Sector to raise awareness and provide guidance to landlords on how best to recognise the signs recognising the unique position that Landlords hold. Landlords or agents can sometimes be the first to spot the signs, either directly by disclosure from the tenant or indirectly by a third party such as the police or a neighbour.  There can be other indicators such as unexplained damage, reports of shouting, banging or other loud noises.

DAHA has recently launched guidance to landlords on the practicalities of providing the right support to tenants which is available to download from www.dahalliance.org.uk

 Key things to consider:

  • Take domestic abuse seriously and look at management issues wider than just thinking of a situation as anti-social behaviour or nuisance.
  • Don’t ever ignore potential signs – genuine malicious damage to a property is quite rare and could be more of a consequence of things happening such as physical domestic abuse.
  • At tenancy sign up, include information/a flyer on local domestic abuse services in addition to the National Domestic Violence Helpline Number 0808 2000247 (24 hours/7 days a week).

 Whole Housing
The Whole Housing Approach endeavours to improve the housing options and outcomes for people experiencing domestic abuse so that they can achieve stable housing, live safely and overcome the abuse and its harmful impacts.
Its mission is to: “Improve access to stable housing across all housing tenure types (social, private rented and private ownership). This also considers the need for move on options for refugees, supported accommodation and any other type of temporary accommodation and;
Ensure access to a range of housing options tailored for domestic abuse to give choice for people experiencing domestic abuse to relocate or remain in their existing accommodation.

The key aims of the project are to:

  • Create earlier identification and intervention of domestic abuse through mobilising social and private landlords and key institutions involved in private ownership
  • Reduce the number of people who are made homeless as a result of domestic abuse
  • Increase tenancy sustainment options including enforcement and positive action taken against perpetrators of domestic abuse.

The Whole Housing programme brings together domestic abuse systems leaders to establish comprehensive and consistent housing practices and deliver a Whole Housing Approach for the first time in three local areas : London Tri Borough, Cambridgeshire & Stockton.

The PRS is an integral part of this ‘Whole Housing’ approach with focus on free training, awareness raising events and recognised guidance for landlords.

Please look out for further information coming your way and don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this important issue.

Tackling domestic abuse is everybody’s responsibility.
For more information:
Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance
National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline – 0808 2000247 (24 hours a day 365 days a year) www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk