I have for years managed and run standard lettings businesses and wanted to establish an ethical lettings agency (ELA) to run alongside a standard lettings business. For various reasons I am now looking to set up the ELA as a stand along project. I have already pitched the idea to three District Councils who liked the idea. They tendered for an partner to run a pilot scheme and I was awarded the contract to set up and run the pilot. I want to set the business up in a very cost effective way as at this stage its only a pilot but I want to build the concept outside of the Council contract for which I will need funding. Bearing in mind the aim of the business is to bring empty homes in the private sector back into use and shorten social housing waiting lists, both of which are very hot topics at the moment I would hope that I could find some assistance to get things moving.
If anyone can offer advice on the right way to go to set this up or who might be able to help with funding I would love to hear from them.
Hi Marc - instantly attracted to anything that says "ethical" but wonder exactly what "ethical" means in this context?? Could you explain a bit more how it will differ from a standard one?? thanks! Wendy firstname.lastname@example.org
It stands apart from the norm in several ways but at the same time I want it to run in an efficient way to maximise the income to deliver as good a service as the best lettings agents.
We will of course take any good quality property on to the scheme but we are working directly with local authorities to bring back into use empty homes and let them to people at the bottom end of the housing waiting list who the authorities will never have enough housing stock to help. People who may have generally speaking a reasonable track record but may have hit the odd legitimate bump in the road or are on lower incomes and just don't earn enough to buy a property. (Just examples)
The fee structure is very transparent with low fees for landlords, and in most cases no fees at all for new tenants. The properties are taken over by us for a five year period allowing the landlord a much more stable income in exchange for the rental achieved being in line with LHA levels. This makes the properties affordable and the tenancy more sustainable for the tenants who also (subject to looking after the property) get a longer term tenancy than the norm in the private sector.
Any profit made will be reinvested in service delivery or donated to a local homelessness prevention charity that do great work in the Lincolnshire area.
If you have any questions Wendy I would be happy to speak to you.
So the service will be for those on Local Authority Housing list only? Can you be more specific about the questions you need answered?
How did the pilot go?
One tough question I always ask, is why? If it is to help a particular group of people (you mention homeless) then that approach can lead you to partnerships that might create/spend revenue on loss making activity (grants etc) which is subsidised by profit generating activity. Partnering with the charity you mention may well bring tangible benefits to you both (for eg)
If it is to open up and increase an existing trading organisations revenue then you have to consider how the two organisations relate, it's an old saying but the devil really is in the detail.
How do you find the response from Landlords regarding 5 year agreements?
The pilot is about to start, it will basically iron out the wrinkles rather than prove the concept as the concept should have no issues.
The pilot will concentrate on the social housing list and ongoing most tenants will come through this route but as I mentioned those most in need get housed by the local authority so this scheme is aimed at the other end of the list.
We will be happy to take suitable properties from anyone whether introduced by the councils or not. From the landlords perspective we will look to protect their interests as much as possible whilst remaining fair and reasonable with the tenant. Tenancies will be one year with a six month break clause that can only be invoked if the property is not looked after or the rent is not paid. The benefit to all parties is that the tenants are selected for wanting longer term and subject to the above they will be offered years 2-5 and possibly a lot longer if the landlord is happy with the situation.
We are looking to create longer term, stable tenancies that work for everyone.
What I'm trying to work out is whether it is a viable option to set up as a CIC from the outset and if that will financially prove beneficial for the business in the early days. I could operate it as a standard business with ethical aims but I would rather go the whole hog and become a CIC if possible but money is very tight to get things off the ground.
That really would depend on your plan and how you execute it. What you have described as planned activity could easily be delivered by a standard lettings agency, is all profit going to go to the homeless charity?
The key (for me) should be the purpose of the organisation. What does being a CIC add? What does it take away?
A CIC works primarily for the benefit of the its defined community of interest. That culture brings with it opportunities and challenges, generally I would say that CIC can and should have a positive effect, but it isnt a magic wand that will change a bad plan into a good one!