Hackney council takes on estate agents after setting up letting agency
PUBLISHED: 17:17 15 January 2014 | UPDATED: 17:17 15 January 2014
The council is taking on “greedy” estate agents by setting up a letting agency to help stabilise rents in the borough.
In a bid to tackle escalating rents in Hackney, which average £250 for a one bedroom flat per week, the council’s not-for-profit model will see it rent out properties on behalf of landlords without charging administration fees.
The council will not charge any fees initially to help private sector tenants who do not qualify for housing benefit but struggle to pay private sector rents.
It will also only take on properties from owners approved by the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme and hope to encourage landlords to improve the quality of their properties.
In return, the council will guarantee rent even when the property is empty and a regular supply of longer-term tenants.
A pilot scheme starts in April and the council, which has already started taking on landlords, hopes to have the scheme running by the summer.
Cllr Karen Alcock, cabinet member for property and housing policy, said: “Hackney is a place where some rents are going up considerably and what the council is trying to do is to find different levels of affordability for people.
“Rather than going to agencies and the property going to the highest bidder, we’re working on longer tenancies – we’re trying to create a more stable rental market for those who can’t afford to rent but earn too much to get a council house.
“We’re trying to help people stay in the borough in properties of a good standard.”
Heather Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Digs – an information and support group for Hackney renters – said: “The greedy, exploitative practices of some letting agents have spiralled out of all control.
“We’re glad to see Hackney Council taking seriously their responsibility towards private renters by opening their own not-for-profit letting agents.
“Digs is pleased Hackney Council’s letting agents won’t be charging fees, which are now set at hundreds of pounds and charged by almost all high street letting agents, leaving renters with no choice but to pay up or be barred from renting. We also hope this pilot with succeed in giving renters the longer tenancies and lower rents they so desperately need.
“But letting agents are only part of what makes renting so insecure and miserable for Londoners. Local councils should also be looking at how they can take tougher action on the high levels of illegal eviction and disrepair.”
Rosie Walker, who lived in Hackney for 10 years and had to move to Waltham Forest after being priced out, said: “Sadly, it’s a few months too late for me.
“After 10 years in the borough, spiralling rents have pushed me over the border into Waltham Forest. Landlords’ unregulated profiteering, and the council’s failure to crack down on bad landlords, cost me my neighbourhood. At least they’re starting to act now.”
The council refused to comment on how it would fund the properties which are empty and whether this would come from council tax revenues.
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