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Private Landlord Support Officer Project

The PLSO project can improve tenancy sustainment, reduce homelessness and enforcement action.

Shelter Scotland, funded by the Oak Foundation, employed Private Landlord Support Officers (PLSOs) situated within Dundee City Council and Lochaber Housing Association (Highland).

  1. These positions were focused on providing support and information to landlords in the local area. Download an example job description.
  2. The PLSO freed up resources for the enforcement officers to take tougher, targeted enforcement action as required

This model of engagement has been replicated in Glasgow too. The Scottish Government provided Glasgow City Council with additional funding for a PLSO post to encourage and support landlords to comply with their legal obligations. The Dundee model was quoted by the Scottish Government in statutory guidance for local authorities too.

Benefits

Cost saving

When used effectively, a PLSO can provide long-term cost savings for the local authority by improving:

  • Tenancy sustainment
  • Reducing homelessness
  • Reducing cases requiring resource intensive enforcement action

Higher quality PRS housing

PLSO’s can also offer benefits to tenants living in your area by helping to improve the condition and safety of properties in the PRS.

[This] ‘mirrors the excellent work of the Shelter funded PLSO embedded within Dundee City Council where they have had significant success in engaging with landlords and raising awareness of and compliance with the required standards’
– Glasgow City PRS Policy Team update, May 2017.

Within the Shelter Scotland pilot projects, PLSOs offered:

  1. One off advice – bite sized information on specific topics to increase understanding and awareness (low level support)
  2. One-to-one work – working with new or inexperienced landlords over a longer period of time (medium level support)
  3. Development planning – working directly with landlords, with gaps in knowledge or practice in one or more areas, monitoring progress against agreed action plans (enhanced support)

During the 2-year pilot project in Dundee:

  • The PLSO handled 872 cases, clearly indicating the demand for the post.
  • The work was particularly effective with accidental landlords, who had small portfolios and other commitments.
  • To improve practice, advice was provided on a range of issues such as common repairs, informal advertising and repossession procedures.
  • There was high demand for landlord checklists.
  • Partnership working was crucial in offering a holistic and effective approach. This diagram shows the range of agencies that linked with, and added to the support of, landlords within the local authority and beyond

Diagram showing benefits of Dundee project

Making the financial case for a PLSO

The pilot projects referred to above demonstrate that a PLSO can provide value-for-money for local authorities as well as benefiting tenants and landlords.

You can read in detail about the results achieved from the PLSO pilot in Dundee. You may wish to use this as evidence when building a case for financial support for a PLSO in your area.

You could also contact the PRS teams at Glasgow City Council or Dundee City Council to obtain up-to-date information on the estimated financial savings their PLSO has brought them.

In order for these local authorities to obtain funding they will have had to demonstrate value for money by forecasting the indirect financial savings a PLSO will make and show that this is greater than the costs of employing them.

You may want to estimate the current costs to your local authority of dealing with the fallout from failed tenancies (e.g. support for homelessness, welfare advice, taking landlord enforcement actions etc.). This may help inform an estimate of how much money a PLSO could save you if they could decrease the incidences of these issues.

Whilst it is rarely easy to obtain funding for a post that didn’t previously exist, it may be possible once you combine the evidence from successful PLSO pilot projects elsewhere in Scotland, with your estimate of how much money the role could save your local authority.

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