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Worcester City Council: redesigning a rent deposit guarantee scheme


Worcester City Council turned to its neighbours to learn from the best practice that existed locally. It has now introduced the role of private sector liaison officer to help rebuild its rent deposit guarantee scheme in addition to other initiatives.

Key learnings for other councils

  • A rent deposit guarantee scheme (RDGS) is a vital homelessness prevention tool for a council to support and prevent families from becoming homeless.
  • When implementing a new scheme, consider not only the prevention of homelessness but also ways of helping people sustain tenancies.
  • The scheme can also provide an opportunity to improve relations between landlords and the council with the provision of a single point of contact.
  • The accreditation criteria guarantees that properties are in good and safe condition and it helps drive up property standards generally.
  • All potential tenancies are assessed for affordability and suitability therefore minimising the main causes of loss of private sector accommodation.
  • Use clearly and concisely written documents for potential tenants and landlords to ensure people are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
  • As landlord and tenant are assisted with all necessary paperwork to begin and end a tenancy, the experience is a smooth and helpful one.


Worcester City Council had been operating a rent deposit guarantee scheme (RDGS) for a number of years. However, it often failed to fully meet the needs of both landlord and tenant. In October 2009, the council introduced the role of private sector liaison officer to help rebuild the scheme and oversee its continued application.

Who was involved?

  • The council's housing officer and Housing department
  • The Housing Benefit department
  • The Black Pear Credit Union
  • Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre

The problems and how we tackled them

Many of the council's neighbouring councils and other local organisations run their own rent deposit guarantee schemes. Worcester City Council sought to learn from the best practice that already existed around it. It became clear during discussions with other councils that the council needed to use elements of other schemes that were the most appropriate.

A guidance pack was designed for landlords and tenants. This provides information on the scheme, including useful contacts, leaflets for disrepair, hazards and so on. It acts a single point of contact for landlords.

A clear procedure was produced for the housing officers who would be expected to identify and present the scheme to potential tenants. The housing officer must assess affordability and suitability for the tenant and the property, ensuring that the tenancy is sustainable.

The housing officer will also determine any support needs and make referrals to the support worker where applicable.

The Housing Benefit department was involved in redesigning the scheme to ensure joint working. A system was agreed to identify and provide the evidence required for direct payments to landlords. This was to ensure claims can be processed quickly and efficiently. Reducing waiting time for landlords and tenants lowers the risk of arrears accruing from an early stage.

A clear procedure for claims was introduced to maintain landlord confidence in the scheme and ensure it is a viable alternative to a cash deposit. A claim form has been designed. Clear instructions on how to claim has been included in the newly-designed landlords' guidance pack.

Full inventories with photographs are taken at the start of the tenancy. This ensures a smoother process should a claim arise at the end of the tenancy.

All properties accepted onto the scheme are accredited and are fully inspected by the private sector team. This will contribute to improve property standards throughout the city.

Worcester City Council will advertise the property free of charge on Home Choice Plus. This will maximise the potential rental market for the landlord and helps provide accommodation for families on the housing register.

The RDGS agreement will expire after the initial tenancy expires. This will minimise any possible liability that the council may face in the future.

Any household eligible for the scheme will be required to join the Black Pear Credit Union. This measure enables tenants to save towards a cash deposit for when the bond expires. It also provides them with an opportunity to ‘stand on their feet'. It also gives the tenant the freedom to access properties that would not be available under the scheme.

The council is working in partnership with the local credit union. Here accounts are opened as a ‘Worcester RDGS account' and are used solely for the purposes of a future deposit or claim. Should neither be needed, all restrictions are lifted. As an added incentive, Worcester City Council will match-fund £20.00 for every £100.00 saved. This is up to a maximum of £100.00.

Worcester City Council has also introduced a database that monitors landlords, tenants and credit union data. It also provides specific data on the potential liability present under the scheme.

Outcomes and impact

  • Very clear user-friendly documentation
  • Designated contact officer for landlord support
  • Gradual development of the scheme to guarantee continued excellent service for landlords
  • Continued consultation with landlords on how the scheme operates
  • Excellent success rate from landlords taking up the scheme
  • All properties are accredited
  • Deposit bond only - no cash deposits
  • A strategy was developed to provide an exit from the bond
  • Client savings towards their own cash deposit are match-funded by the council
  • Close working relationships with colleagues, for example, the support officer when the client requires support to maintain their tenancy and housing advice team for clients for the properties.

Partnership working with other agencies including, for example, Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre is helped. They use any one-bed properties for their deposit scheme for single households. Social Services can then provide a month's rent in advance.


Amy Crush, Private Sector Liasion Officer
Worcester City Council (Urban Environment)
email: [email protected]

Published in May 2010.