At first sight, the Hastings Borough Council (HBC) Social Lettings Agency seems a logical idea, in principle anyway.
The council is facing a massive shortage of local housing with such a large and diverse group needing accommodation including those in employment. However, landlords cannot be blamed for trying to reduce the risks to their property and businesses by selecting employed tenants with a good references and able to pay a deposit.
So HBC is putting money up front and guaranteeing the property is returned in ‘good’ condition. But, signing over property for social housing purposes to HBC in partnership with AmicusHorizon has risks and possible negative effects for those living in adjacent properties.
Hastings Borough Council needs to be much clearer about which landlords are eligible to sign up to this scheme. Only those who own freehold property outright should be bold enough to consider this. The council must also be very clear on how it is going to manage the lettings, particularly tenants who behave in a disruptive or anti-social manner, in the light of recent criticism of some private sector management.
Those who own leasehold property would almost certainly be unable to take this on without breaching the terms of their leases. Likewise with landlords who use a mortgage to purchase property. Most lenders insist that tenants are referenced correctly and some state that tenants must be employed. I cannot see any lenders agreeing to a property being leased to a council for social housing.
It seems that the devil could be in the detail on this one and there are more questions than answers. How is all this being funded? Is there any connection between the funding of this scheme and the millions that HBC hopes to raise in landlord licensing fees?