Citizens Advice Manchester – Chatbot launched

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TDS Charitable Foundation and Citizens Advice Manchester collaborate to create a customer advice chatbot

TDS Charitable Foundation and Citizens Advice Manchester have collaborated to create a fully functioning advice chatbot to extend further support to their customers.

Chatbot Available for General Advice

Initially working together in 2018, Citizens Advice Manchester secured TDS Charitable Foundation funding to build a chatbot for their own website.

Now, additional grant funding from TDS Charitable Foundation has been used to develop  , which can be ported to other websites and is now live on the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) website.

Extending the Remit of our Customer Support

The Chatbot has enabled TDS to provide additional advice outside of the core focus of deposits, such as benefits, relationships and immigration. The FAQ-based chatbot signposts users to the appropriate advice webpages, which frees up advisers to deal with more complex digital enquiries.

Kurtis Massey, IT and Digital Manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, Gives Insight into the Chatbot’s Development

After testing various applications, we decided to create the Chatbot using Google’s Dialogflow. This allows you, without any coding skills, to build out complex conversation flows based on user responses. To enhance the experience for clients coming to Citizens Advice Manchester through the Chatbot, we wanted to invoke a fallback. To do this, we sourced a third-party developer to make the process as seamless as possible.

The Chatbot offers options to frequently asked questions, and this then directs the customer to self-help pages to find the information needed. If the Chatbot cannot answer the specific question, the question is then handed over to a human adviser.

The Chatbot went through various iterations as we modified responses and outputs to reflect customer and adviser feedback. The addition of asking key questions before handing them over to a human allowed us to improve the effectiveness of our digital advice teams.

National Innovation of the Year

The result of the pilot was that by making the Chatbot the initial point of contact for our customers, it provided answers to 15% of users and supported our advisers with key data collection. The learning was shared with the national Citizens Advice team, and the Chatbot won the national Innovation of the Year at the National Conference.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, over 3,200 people accessed the award-winning Chatbot funded by the TDS Charitable Foundation.

See the chatbot in action here!

TDS Charitable Foundation
The TDS Charitable Foundation is a registered charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Its mission is to raise the standards in the private rented sector by delivering training and education to landlords, agents and tenants. Donations from The Dispute Service Ltd help fund our work. The Dispute Service Ltd is a partner in the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust a sister charity that works towards similar goals in the Scottish private rented sector.

The charity’s focus for 2021-2022 is to support projects within the following themes:

  • Promoting knowledge of landlord’s obligations
  • Promoting knowledge of tenant’s rights and responsibilities

Find out more about our latest projects in our annual report.

Citizens Advice Manchester
Citizens Advice Manchester offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice and information on a wide range of topics such as housing, benefits, money problems and issues at work. In the last year alone, Citizens Advice Manchester helped 50,000 people in Manchester take control of their finances by offering guidance and support on debt and benefits. Assisted thousands of families into secure housing, worked with people struggling to remain in or find employment and provided access to the skills and advice that will allow parents to give their children the best start in life.

Read more about the work they’re doing here.

 

 

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The TDS Charitable Foundation have released a digest of funded projects

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The purpose of the TDS Charitable Foundation is to help raise standards in the private rented sector by supporting projects that aim to educate landlords and tenants of their respective rights and responsibilities.

This new digest of projects has been released to showcase the excellent work delivered in recent years.

Click here to read the TDS Charitable Foundation Digest.

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TDS launch the 2019-2020 Charitable Annual Review

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TDS Charitable Foundation has released the 2019-2020 Annual Review. This review looks back on all the success’ the Foundation has had over the last 12 months and summarises the key information you need to know, all in one place.

What is TDS Charitable Foundation and what’s the purpose?

Launched in 2014, the mission of the TDS Charitable Foundation is to raise standards within the private rented sector (PRS). This is delivered by providing education and information to tenants, landlords and agents both directly and indirectly through other organisations. The Foundation looks to support projects which focus on promoting knowledge of landlords’ obligations and knowledge of tenants’ rights and responsibilities. Primarily a grant giving charity; each year the Trustees decide the core themes for funding and welcome bids from organisations and individuals. Since the Foundation’s establishment 6 years ago, it has funded 58 projects, investing nearly £800,000.

Inside the review

The Annual Review begins with a warm welcome to our new Trustees; RICS Head of Sustainability, John Karus and leading property expert, Kate Faulkner. Both will be governing the Foundation as it looks to continue the great work that has already been started over the last 6 years.

A major positive over the last year for the Foundation was the completion of the Propertymark qualifications project which was previously awarded funding in 2018. This supported 16-19 year olds primarily, regardless of whether they are in full or part time education, to help them achieve a Level 2 award in Residential Lettings. Further details of the number of people the qualification has helped can be found within the Annual Review.

Another key talking point of the review is centred around The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Research (CaCHE). The Foundation’s largest funded project to date, it aims to help research housing issues in the UK with a view to informing policy changes to raise standards. The project is jointly funded with the SafeDeposits Scotland Charitable Trust.

The Annual Review closes with an overview of the projects that have been funded this year with snapshots of the fantastic work they have been doing.  If you think that the TDS Charitable Foundation could help you, please click here: https://tdsfoundation.org.uk/#apply-for-funding

Read the TDS 2019-2020 Charitable Annual Review today.

 

 

About TDS

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

 

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New additions to the TDS Charitable Foundation Board

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I was thrilled to be asked a few months ago to join the TDS Charitable Foundation board. I am a firm believer that if landlords and tenants had a better understanding of how to let and rent a home, many of the problems that hit the headlines almost daily just wouldn’t exist.

One of the key problems in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) is that there is so little robust research carried out, the ‘general view’ of the sector is often skewed, particularly in the media.

This was the first interaction I had with the Foundation. Having explained that I didn’t have the resources to produce the research I wanted, it was suggested that I applied for funding to help rectify some of the misunderstandings. I was a little nervous as I wasn’t particularly experienced at putting together applications for funding, but I was grateful to receive help and guidance to get the application right and happily received the funding to produce 12 reports which can be found here.

The first report showed that landlords weren’t typically ‘greedy’ nor ‘evil’, many owned just one property and when they flouted the law they often did this due to a lack of knowledge of how to let properties legally and safely, not an excuse, but in many cases, poorly rented properties weren’t necessarily done ‘on purpose’.

The fourth report was one of the most popular which tackled one of the most contentious issues in the PRS – damp, condensation and mould. The funding allowed me time to bring together experts in this field to look at the causes, how to diagnose the issue and how to solve the problems, focusing on educating agents, landlords and tenants on their individual responsibilities.

Reports seven, eight and eleven looked at the financials of lettings, looking at the real returns and comparing investing in buy to let today versus the early 2000s. We even looked into helping parents understand all the things they needed to consider when comparing the cost of paying for student accommodation versus buying to let while kids were at university.

Hopefully these reports have been widely used by the industry, landlords and tenants to improve education on some of the key issues in the private rented sector and how they can be solved.

Moving forward, while we are in the middle of emergency eviction legislation, our courts are closed and we are likely to be heading towards a tricky recession, I look forward to supporting the Foundation to help fund new essential projects to improve best practice in the PRS, reduce conflict and ensure that the ever changing legal rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants are more widely communicated.

Alongside Kate’s appointment to the Board, The Foundation has also welcomed John Kraus, Head of Sustainable Urbanisation at RICS as a Trustee.

The TDS Charitable Foundation is currently welcoming bid funding applications with a deadline for submission being 5pm on Friday 25th September 2020. Visit the website here to find out more about the Foundation and the bid funding available.

About the Author

Kate Faulkner

Managing Director at Propertychecklists

Kate Faulkner is one of the UK’s leading property experts. She is passionate that most of the problems in the residential property market can be solved if the media, industry and government worked together to educate consumers on how to carry out property projects. To aid this, Kate has set up a free consumer education site Propertychecklists and working groups for Home Buying and Selling and The Lettings Industry Council which are attended by MHCLG.

About TDS

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured for landlords: where a TDS customer can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy. Join TDS Insured today.

TDS Custodial: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy. Landlords, you can protect your deposits for FREE today.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

It’s quick and easy to register deposits with TDS, and unless things have changed with a tenancy, there is no need to re-protect or pay additional fees. Click here to protect your tenancy deposits now.

NRLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can receive 25% off your first year’s membership when joining here.

 

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#ExpertView: The TDS Charitable Foundation Review 2017-18

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In this week’s #ExpertView article, Kelly Wallace, TDS’ Charitable Foundation Coordinator, discusses the TDS Charitable Foundation Review 2017-18.

Set up in 2014 to raise standards in the private rented sector (PRS), the TDS Charitable Foundation has published its annual review which shows that 13 different organisations across England and Wales have benefited from grants totalling £135,935 in the last year.

The Foundation is funded mainly by donations from The Dispute Service (TDS), the leading Tenancy Deposit Scheme which operates on a not-for-profit basis across the UK.

Grants have been made which encourage best practice in the PRS, educate landlords on their obligations, and ensure tenants are informed about their rights and responsibilities.

Projects to have benefited in the last year include Community Links Bromley which received £8,870 for an online toolkit for new tenants entering into the private rented sector and the Centre for Sustainable Energy which received £14,050 to support landlords in the South West to better understand their obligations around new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).

Sutton Borough Citizens Advice Bureau received £22,181 to create a training package to give trainee volunteers the necessary skills to be able to give accurate, relevant and up to date information, and the Refugee Council was given a grant of £10,000 to help provide advice sessions for newly recognised refugees in searching, securing and maintaining tenancies.

Prof. Martin Partington CBE QC, Chairman of the TDS Charitable Foundation, said: “The diverse and far-reaching projects which the Foundation has given grants to this year show the importance of the private rented sector in so many people’s lives.

“By contributing to the work being done by so many worthwhile organisations we hope that these projects will have a real impact and help more people understand not only how the PRS works but what their roles and responsibilities are.”

To read the Annual Review report in full, please visit: Annual Review 2017

About the author:

Kelly Wallace has been responsible for the co-ordination of the TDS Charitable Foundation since its inception in 2014. Alongside her role with the Foundation, Kelly has more generally been part of The Tenancy Deposit Scheme for four years, initially within the Dispute Resolution team, progressing to a central role within the customer relations department and now the Senior Business Development Executive. Kelly’s focus within TDS is membership, business development and growth; this encompasses all aspects of new business across both the Insured and Custodial schemes.

About TDS:

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland’s leading and only not-for-profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

ARLA|Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: . By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.

RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at:  and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year’s membership.

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Final call for TDS Charitable Foundation funding applications in latest round

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Final call for TDS Charitable Foundation funding applications

  • Organisations encouraged to submit bids for the next round of funding before Friday 5th January
  • Foundation aims to top the half million-pound mark in its next round of funding

Organisations that support landlords and tenants to improve standards and educate those involved in the private rented sector have just over two weeks to submit applications for funding from the TDS Charitable Foundation.

 

During the last round of funding in August, over £94,000 was awarded to organisations to advance education on housing rights and obligations in the PRS. Groups undertaking projects in this field are being urged to submit their bids for the next funding round before the deadline on Friday 5th January 2018.

 

Prof. Martin Partington CBE QC, Chairman of The TDS Charitable Foundation, said: “The TDS Charitable Foundation goes right to the heart of the private rented market, with grants aimed directly at benefitting tenants and landlords in communities across England and Wales.

 

“I’d encourage any organisation or charity that educates and informs tenants, landlords or agents within the PRS to apply ahead of the January deadline. The application form can be downloaded from the website and submitted directly to the Foundation. With awards announced in early 2018, it could be the perfect kick-start to your organisations New Year.

 

“The PRS is often difficult to navigate but the projects we support will make sure both landlords and tenants across the country know their rights and responsibilities.”

 

To date, the TDS Charitable Foundation has provided over £400k in funding support for organisations across England and Wales and hopes to top the half million-pound mark in its next round of funding.

 

The Foundation was established in 2014 by TDS, the UK’s leading tenancy deposit scheme. As the only not-for-profit scheme in its industry, TDS is committed to raising standards in the private rented sector in England and Wales.

 

Organisations that have successfully applied for funding in the past include Bristol-based Centre for Sustainable Energy, which was awarded £14,050 to fund a project that will inform landlords across the region of how the introduction of MEES will affect them as well as supporting them in improving their property’s efficiency rating, if necessary.

 

Organisations wishing to apply for support must submit their bids online by 5pm on Friday 5th January 2018.

Further information on the application process and criteria are available under the ‘apply for funding section’.

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New Round of Bid Funding Announced for 2017

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With a new year looming, the TDS Charitable Foundation have launched a new application ready for a new round of bid funding.

More than £175,000 in grants has been given out by the TDS Charitable Foundation since it was established in 2014 by TDS, the UK’s leading insurance-backed tenancy deposit scheme. As the only not-for-profit scheme in its industry, TDS is committed to raising standards in the private rented sector.

Do not miss out on your opportunity to apply; the deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd February!

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Don’t miss out on £70K funding from TDS Charitable Foundation

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TDS Charitable FoundationOrganisations that support landlords and tenants have just four weeks left to apply for a share of a £70,000 funding pot from the TDS Charitable Foundation.

The amount of money available to fund innovative projects that benefit the private rented sector has been increased for 2016, and people are urged to submit their bids before the deadline on Wednesday 10th August.

In particular, the foundation is looking to make funding available to commission a feasibility study into establishing a dedicated research centre for the sector in England and Wales.

More than £175,000 in grants has been given out by the TDS Charitable Foundation since it was established in 2014 by TDS, the UK’s leading insurance-backed tenancy deposit scheme. As the only not-for-profit scheme in its industry, TDS is committed to raising standards in the private rented sector.

Organisations that have successfully applied for funding in the past include Designs on Property Ltd, which was awarded £15,000 to fund a series of 12 independent reports on the private rented sector, the first of which looked into the typical buy-to-rent landlord and was published earlier this month.

Industry expert and report author Kate Faulkner said: “Without the funding from the TDS Charitable Foundation we would not have been able to carry out this independent research, which I believe is vital if we are to fully understand the industry in which we work and start challenging the misperceptions surrounding the private rented sector.

“I’d never applied for funding before but there was plenty of support available at every stage of the process and I would really encourage anyone who thinks they have a project that meets the objectives of the foundation to apply.”

Prof Martin Partington, chairman of TDS and the TDS Charitable Foundation, said: “Our not-for-profit status enables us to use part of our surplus income to raise standards in the industry we serve by reinvesting in education and training and promoting best practice, and as an organisation this is something we are passionate about.”

More information on how to submit a bid before the Wednesday 10th August deadline. The successful applicants will be announced in the autumn.

 

Small organisations representing landlords or tenants that wish to deliver training about renting a property can access a train2rent free training course pack that has been produced thanks to funding from the TDS Charitable Foundation.

Funding enquiries

or please email:

A copy of the full ‘Who are the individual landlords providing private rented accommodation’ by Kate Faulkner is available to download.

 

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TDS Charitable Foundation funds landlords research

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Landlords need more industry and government support to stay on top of ever-changing regulations

Property Expert Kate Faulkner’s research has found that landlords are such a diverse group of people that it’s almost impossible to reach them to communicate rules and regulations.

Contrary to the popular misconception that landlords are ‘greedy’ entrepreneurs who ‘just sit back and watch the money roll in’, research Kate carried out with the support of the TDS Charitable Foundation found that many landlords are over 55s letting out their own former home, and some are not even looking for financial gain; just buying property to rent to friends or family to help them out.

The research of 205 landlords across the UK was carried out for Kate’s latest report: ‘Who are the individual landlords providing private rented accommodation?’, which she has just completed with the support of the TDS Charitable Foundation.

The full report can be accessed here

Kate found that landlords are as individual and varied as the homes they rent out, with the survey being completed by teachers, doctors, web developers, librarians, army officers and retirees. Up to 40% of them are ‘accidental landlords’, letting out a property that was not bought for that purpose. Some have inherited property, or needed to move but couldn’t sell, so rented it out instead.

Confusion reigns
But while these landlords may try to do the right thing for their tenants, many are confused about the ever-changing rules and regulations. And, most worrying of all, some are completely uninformed; the results showed that one in five landlords does no research at all before letting out a property.

This has obvious implications for their tenants. Most landlords who completed our survey are getting the right checks on their property before letting, but it is disturbing that 8.6% of them did not obtain a gas safety certificate, and 30.5% failed to obtain an electrical safety certificate.

The main conclusion we drew from our research is something Kate has been saying for some time: everyone involved in the private rented sector urgently needs to work more closely together to educate landlords about creating safer rented housing for everyone.

With 145 lettings rules and regulations on letting, which are not only changing all the time but which vary from one local authority to another, it’s no wonder landlords are confused and struggle to keep up with the law. It is even more challenging if they are letting out property in another part of the country to where they live, for example if they’ve relocated for work, or because of a new relationship, and are renting out their former home.

How can we help landlords let property safely and legally?
It’s time for everyone in the PRS – lenders, legal companies, letting agents, tenant organisations and local authorities as well as the government – to collaborate to give landlords the tools and incentives they need to let property safely and legally.

If everybody worked together, they could promote trusted and consistent sources of information about preparing a property to let legally, about changes in the law, property maintenance and, of course, where to turn for independent, qualified advice.

However, because landlords are such a diverse group of people, and with many self-managing their properties, it makes it extremely difficult to communicate with them, unless they actively seek out information for themselves.

Even if they do their own research about rules and regulations, it can be still be confusing and Kate’s report suggests that even experienced landlords struggle.

What can we do to help?
With many landlords renting out their former home (so without talking to a lender) and most over-55s self-managing rather than using letting agent – and with nearly 40% not joining any landlord association – it’s clear that many landlords are ‘slipping through the net’.

The only people likely to come into contact with this group are local authorities and insurance companies – and they need to find better ways to communicate with them on a regular basis.

Landlords need a clear source of information they can turn to, a ‘one-stop shop’ that is recommended by everyone in the industry, from lenders to insurance companies. This would be the ideal place to communicate information in a clear, concise and consistent way – which our research revealed to be vital in encouraging landlords to implement legislative and regulation changes.

And Kate comments “How about the government introducing incentives for landlords to stay within the law, such as tax breaks or special deals which reward those that are renting legally and safely? The carrot is often more effective than the stick!”

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Double funding round announced

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The Trustees of the TDS Charitable Foundation have extended the deadline for the current round of funding and are now welcoming funding applications until 10 August 2016.

The Foundation works to advance education about housing rights and obligations in the private rented sector and because of this extended deadline, available funding for bids has been increased to £70,000. The Foundation is looking to support bids which promote knowledge of landlord’s obligations or tenant’s rights and responsibilities, but also to look at the feasibility of establishing a dedicated research centre for the private rented sector in England and Wales.

The last round of funding saw a total of over £50,000 of awards made to:

  • 4 the community – a project to extend and improve the information, education, and support available to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) tenants in Rhyl. The project will be to recruit and train a team of volunteers to deliver the service;
  • Cardiff Tenants and Residents Federation – a tenant education programme that specifically informs tenants about the key differences about renting in Wales, as well as wider rights and responsibilities;
  • EFA London – the delivery of a six-week housing rights and English language course to 120 students in four London boroughs – deepening student’s understanding of housing rights in the UK and of enhancing language learners’ ability to solve tenancy problems;
  • Law for Life – to develop and deliver training and information resources which will benefit both small and medium sized tenants organisations.

Professor Martin Partington QC, CBE, Chair of the TDS Charitable Foundation said;

“These four projects are a wonderful example of how, since we established the charity in 2014, we have been able to provide funding for a whole range of innovative projects that benefit the private rented sector.”

He continued;

“The Foundation is interested in receiving further innovative proposals before 10 August and we are making double the funds available.  We are particularly keen to see expressions of interest in relation to setting up a dedicated PRS research centre and will consider funding a feasibility study as to whether such a centre could be established for England and Wales.”

The TDS Charitable Foundation is currently welcoming bids for the current round of funding which is open until 10 August 2016.

Download an application form and view the bidding criteria

If you are a small organisation, representing landlords or tenants, and wish to deliver training about renting a property, there is a free training course pack that may help you. This is a project previously funded by TDS Charitable Foundation, details online at www.train2rent.co.uk

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