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New report demonstrates need for ‘Whole Housing Approach for victims of domestic abuse

Article Posted - 29th August 2019

A new report, produced in conjunction with Surviving Economic Abuse, the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, Peabody, and Whole Housing Domestic Abuse, highlights the specific needs of victims and survivors of domestic abuse living in the private rented sector (PRS). The data compiled in this report counters commonly held misconceptions about who the victims and survivors of domestic abuse are.

Why does this matter for landlords? Because over a third (38 percent) of victims and survivors of domestic abuse are living in private rented property, yet the report details that their needs are not well understood and are often ‘invisible'. Additionally, a higher proportion of private tenants reported sexual violence or abuse, stalking or harassment, and experience of so-called ‘honour' based violence compared to homeowners.

The report also found that minorities and women are disproportionately at risk of domestic abuse in the PRS. 13 percent of the UK population is black or minority ethnic (BME)**, yet 24 percent of domestic abuse victims and survivors are BME. Around 7 percent of the population identifies as LGBTQI+ but almost 15 percent (more than double) of domestic abuse survivors and victims identify as such***. The demographic data therefore suggests that victims and survivors who are private tenants are more likely to have complex or additional needs compared to victims-survivors who were homeowners. Almost all victims and survivors are female (97 percent).In terms of highest qualification, most victims and survivors are educated to university degree level (60 percent) compared with 44 percent of the UK population aged between 19 and 64****.

How can landlords help if their tenants are victims and survivors of domestic abuse?

Be flexible about changing the locks and other alterations to the property. Some survivors living in private rented accommodation found themselves unable to protect themselves (and their children) from the perpetrator as a result of not being able to secure the property (change the locks) at short notice, without prior permission or unless they could prove the abuse in court.

Extra measures that could be taken at a little extra cost include tightening security in the property by installing new door locks, security locks, window locks, a door viewer and security lights.

Speak to your tenant in person if you believe they are in arrears as a result of an abusive partner. Thirty nine percent of victims and survivors living in the PRS reported problems paying housing costs and/or priority bills.

Private renters reported getting into debt as a result of having to pay high rents on top of having to furnish new property, often at the same time as having to pay off existing debts as a consequence of financial abuse by the perpetrator and thus ending up with credit card debt and/or rent arrears and general difficulty with day-to-day finances.

If your tenant is experiencing economic abuse within the context of domestic abuse, help is available. Recommend they contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247 or the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327, where immediate assistance will be available.

If a tenant has confided in you that abuse is taking place, provide them with the contact information of charities who will be able to help them. Help on offer varies in each local authority, and information on this can be obtained by contacting your local council or the police.

Your tenant might be able to secure an injunction if they've been the victim of domestic violence. A small number of private renters surveyed had obtained an occupation order to remove the perpetrator from the property. This, in the main, was described as a useful (although only temporary), measure providing the victim-survivor with space needed to make alternative accommodation arrangements.

The PRS needs to be better informed and aware of what constitutes domestic abuse to improve its response and adhere to safeguarding responsibilities.

For more information about domestic abuse in the PRS and what signs to look out for, check out our thought leadership page (link) and our podcast (link).

* Policy Evidence Summary 4: Justice, housing and domestic abuse, the experiences of homeowners and private renters ** England and Wales 2011 Census *** ONS Sexual orientation, UK: 2017 ****Further Education and Skills in England (November 2017)

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