Improving the private rented sector: Decent and Safe Homes (DASH) East Midlands

DASH was set up in 2005 as a joint initiative by local authorities, property owners, landlords and tenants in the East Midlands.

Key points

  • This is a sub-regional initiative currently covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and parts of Staffordshire.
  • It is a council and landlord subscription-based service that is particularly beneficial for smaller districts.
  • ‘Call B4 You Serve’ is an innovative service aimed at helping landlords look at other options than seeking the repossession of a property. 


DASH was set up in 2005 as a joint initiative by local authorities, property owners, landlords and tenants in the East Midlands. The aim is to improve ‘housing conditions, housing choice and housing management’ in the private rented sector. It is hosted at Derby City Council’s offices.

Its services for local authorities are subscription-based. As of 2020, local authorities in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and parts of Staffordshire are ‘members’. It is especially useful for district councils that frequently do not have the in-house resources (skills and funding) to address issues in the private rented sector. 

DASH services

The services include:

  • Research and consultancy activities including the development of good practice guides on accreditation, evidence-based reports to help inform local and national policy and updates on trends in the private rented stock.
  • Regulatory information and management systems that provide subscribing local authorities, for example, with regularly updated procedure documents and legal notices. 
  • Landlord accreditation (DASH Accreditation) that has been running since 2008. 

DASH accreditation is targeted at landlords. A fee is charged for the service. It requires landlords to complete an online application form, undertake a development/ training course, successfully pass a property health check and commit to a code of conduct. If, for instance, a property does not meet health and safety standards, advice will be offered. 

Successful accreditation provides a quality mark and logo that can be used in marketing material. Tenants benefit from a reassurance that an accredited landlord will provide a good quality property and management service. 

Both Derby city council and Nottingham city council utilise this accreditation scheme and work in collaboration with DASH. The latter has set its own requirements – the Nottingham Standard. Landlords can achieve this level of accreditation through participating in the DASH accreditation service.

‘Call Before You Serve’

This free service to landlords is a proactive scheme to help prevent evictions in the private rented sector, which is the most common reason for homelessness. It links with the homelessness prevention agenda and is available across 16 local authority areas in the East Midlands, who have signed up to the scheme (see below). It has been nominated in the Local Government Chronicle Awards for 2020 in the categories of ‘innovation’ and ‘housing initiative’.

It is targeted at landlords that traditionally have been wary of local authority homelessness prevention services. Its objective is to help landlords avoid the situation of ending an assured shorthold tenancy because of disputes with tenants such as rent arrears. Instead of seeking possession through serving a section 21 or a section 8 notice, landlords work with DASH to help resolve these disputes. 

The service includes:

  • creating a personalised housing plan agreed with the tenant
  • tackling rent arrears through housing benefit services, universal credit, local authority homelessness prevention funds and charities
  • financial assessment of a tenant so as to maximise income
  • referral mechanisms to other services if there are deep-seated and long-term issues
  • mediation to resolve disputes. 

The service is publicised widely by DASH, participating local authorities and voluntary sector agencies.   

Councils wishing to participate in the scheme can opt either for a basic package or an enhanced package. The former costs a standard £2,500 plus an annual subscription fee. It involves options such as scheme start-up/project planning package and staff training. The latter comprises the basic package plus a bespoke tailored approach that might involve staff recruitment and training and ongoing management of the scheme. The cost is dependent on the services that are required.