Council set to become social lettings agent

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Hastings Borough Council are set to become landlords in the private sector after a pilot scheme was approved at a Cabinet meeting earlier this week.

Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) Cabinet agreed on Monday (February 2) to approve the project, which is the first step towards the council taking on the role of a social lettings agency.

HBC says the scheme will help local people find suitable housing. Council leader Jeremy Birch said: “Private sector rented accommodation in Hastings is becoming a real problem for local people. Many low income households have said how difficult it is to get suitable accommodation because of the level of fees and deposits charged by letting agents and landlords, and a reluctance by some of these to let to those who receive housing benefit.

“We also continue to receive complaints about the poor quality of accommodation, and the standard of housing management offered to some of those who have managed to find housing.

“We agreed to trial a scheme which will see the council leasing up to 100 homes a year from property owners. We would then rent out the property to those in need of housing. We would be the landlord and responsible for paying a leasing fee to the owner, and we would manage the property.”

“This innovative scheme will benefit both those looking for a home, particularly those in danger of becoming homeless, and landlords, who will get a guaranteed, hassle-free fee.”

Spokesmen from two local letting agents say their concern with the scheme is that property owners will have no say on who takes up residence in their premises. “If the tenants bid on line - as they do for a Housing Association property - we would have no idea who they are or where they come from and would not be able to vet them. We charge fees because we must run checks and obtain references.”