Meet Helena Trippe, CEO of RentSquare, one of the seven ventures on the first cohort of our Reimagining Rent programme which is supporting innovations working to make the private rented sector work better for vulnerable people. We talk with Helena about what inspired her to start RentSquare how the Reimagining Rent programme is helping them to achieve their aim to promote a different approach to renting – one which is fairer and more transparent for both tenant and landlords.
Tell us a bit about RentSquare, what problem are you trying to make a dent on and how is your programme doing that?
We know the price of rents is not the only problem facing renters. Not only are rents expensive, but even getting to be considered for a property is a costly and very frustrating experience. It is a constant battle to show you are a ‘good tenant’ after all. Now from our work letting properties in London, we also know this is a problem across the board, affecting working families to the self-employed and pretty much anyone who doesn’t fit the cookie cutter. That is why 1 in 5 renters fail reference checks.
The impact of this is not only bad for renters – costing them time, money, access to quality housing and peace of mind. It also means landlords lose out on meeting perfectly good renters, which can lead to properties sitting empty for longer, making rents more expensive. So in the end, no one wins.
RentSquare helps renters find and secure the best offer, by helping them stay in control of the process. We do this by helping renters assess their actual affordability and demonstrate their creditworthiness. We support them in finding the best deals according to what they can afford and the kind of terms – length of tenancy, break clauses, whether HB is accepted – they are looking for, before they even commit to a viewing.
As a founder of RentSquare, I come from Brazil, a country where a lack of access to decent housing means you don’t have an address to open a bank account or apply for work. So for me, housing is critical, whatever form it takes and I think there is far too much focus placed on labelling different parts of the market. I believe we just need to focus on making the whole thing work better for everyone.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for the organisation, so far?
Our biggest challenge probably came at the very start when we started letting flats at RentSquare prices and we were often asked “why landlords want to charge less?”
We now have proof from letting almost 100 flats that a different approach to renting – which is fair and transparent – makes sense and is viable.
What are your ambitions for RentSquare?
That’s our next challenge. Our purpose is to make renting accessible for the many. As such we want to increase everyone’s chance of securing the best offer by offering a customised assessment of renters’ creditworthiness and affordability benchmarking based on their individual circumstances.
We’d like to work with renters across the board to reach those from low income backgrounds, including working families in receipt of housing benefit, where we know we can really make a difference. We are looking for partners, voluntary and third sector organisations and local government authorities who would be interested in developing this with us.
In what ways has the Reimagining Rent programme helped you?
The programme has been very useful to us as an organisation. Although we are still finding our feet, we have some experience under our belt. So the programme has provided us with defining where we want to take RentSquare next. The sessions have been pitched at the right level, bringing external experts to deliver a mix of training and 1:1 support so we can develop the business and understand how to approach growth and scale in a way that suits us as an organisation.
Would you recommend the Reimagining Rent programme to other potential applicants and why?
Definitely! If housing is your thing and you are excited about solving some pretty complex problems in the private rented sector – this is the place to be. It is really refreshing to be with such a committed bunch of people, providing a range of solutions which are not just about tech, and are genuinely committed to making a difference in the housing space.
Reimagining Rent is working with RentSquare and six other initiatives to strengthen their business models, demonstrate their impact and grow their potential to scale.
The programme launched in London in autumn 2017 and will be delivered in other areas of the UK in subsequent years. Applications are now closed, however, if you have any questions or would like to know more about the programme please contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Young Foundation’s Reimagining Rent programme is being funded by the Nationwide Foundation, a charitable funder aiming to increase the availability of decent affordable homes for people in housing need.