Domestic violence continues to be one of the most challenging issues in today’s society, but as a letting agent, what can you do to help stop domestic abuse?
When escaping violent partners, women are frequently forced to either seek support to stay safely, or they have to leave their home with their children. Over 9,570 women and 10,110 children were given emergency housing in 2013 alone. The rental housing sector has a crucial role in keeping victims of domestic abuse safe, but letting agents can occasionally lack the knowledge, skill or procedures to deal with domestic abuse.
DAHA (The Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance) is a partnership formed by housing associations, the Gentoo Group and Peabody, and Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, a UK charity.
DAHA aims to improve the rented housing sector’s reactions to domestic abuse by:
– collecting best practices from across the housing sector
– setting accreditation standards for providers of social housing
– supporting the improvement of individual housing providers
– developing tools for service assessment.
It is estimated that over 1.9 million adults aged between 16 and 59 years old experienced domestic abuse this past year alone, according to statistics provided by the Crime Survey for England and Wales. This equalled 713,000 men and 1.2 million women as domestic abuse victims.
Development manager at DAHA, Victoria Watts, believes that the housing sector is perfectly placed to recognise, prevent and identify domestic abuse within its properties. Ms Watts went on to elaborate that DAHA believes property managers can play a vital role in supporting victims who may be experiencing domestic violence, as well as raising awareness of the issue. She states that they are certainly not suggesting that property managers intervene directly or offer the same solution as social housing providers.
Instead, landlords and letting agents should take a softer approach which could really create a positive impact. Do not ignore the potential signs of domestic abuse, and be confident that there is advice and help available for both you and your tenant.
Your role as a landlord or letting agent is:
– to raise awareness
– work within and be understanding of the community
– keep ears and eyes open for signs of domestic abuse
You could help more by:
– providing information at the beginning of a tenancy focusing on local support services for domestic abuse. Often, many people simply do not know where they can go for help, and by doing something as easy as providing the correct phone number, you could possibly save a life.
– thinking of issues with domestic abuse in mind rather than merely anti-social behaviour.
– supporting any staff who could be suffering domestic abuse by implementing staff policies to safeguard and advise them.
– recognising that any recurring repairs to walls, windows, external doors, locks and internal doors are all possible signs of domestic abuse, and should not always be considered as malicious damage.
– increasing awareness and training cleaners, concierge, CCTV operatives, window cleaners and maintenance teams to identify the signs of domestic violence.
Do not assume that every report of nuisance behaviour is correct. Try to reassess the problem and consider if the complaint is just about noise or if the problem could be more serious.