Tuesday 27th June 2017
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Luton Lets: letting and property management

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Luton Lets logo

In early 2015 we will be launching our new letting and property management service.

If you are already a landlord, property owner or estate agent in Luton, our Luton Lets service can offer you an easy way to let and manage your property.

Why choose Luton Lets to let and manage your property?

With over 8,000 council tenants in social housing, we are already the biggest property managers in town!
Letting and managing your property by yourself can bring risks, complications and the worry of tenants not paying their rent.
 
With Luton Lets we take these responsibilities off your shoulders, and make your experience of being a landlord hassle-free.

What will the new service offer?

Working as a Social Lettings Agency, our full letting and management service will include:
  • guaranteed rent in advance – even if your tenants default on payments, you will still get your rent
  • tenant finding and selection
  • full property management
  • an optional repair service – if you choose, we can deal with organising all necessary repairs
  • no fees
  • expert housing officers to handle your letting

If you have a property in Luton and would like to know more get in contact by clicking on the orange button:

I'm thinking of using Luton Lets

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about Luton’s Social Letting Agency, Luton Lets, which launched in Spring 2015. They are split into those that might be particularly asked by landlords considering the scheme, a section for tenants and finally one that may be of interest to residents, media, council officers and councillors.

Landlords

What ‘products’ will Luton Lets offer to a landlord?

Luton Lets will focus on offering landlords a full lettings management and guaranteed rent product as our main product.

Luton Lets will offer all the ‘additional services’ that a High Street Letting Agent offers, including:

  • arranging of gas and electrical safety inspections and certificates when required
  • arranging of Energy Performance Certificates where required
  • inventories and inspections
  • legal advice and paperwork
  • repairing services
  • regular property / welfare visits throughout the tenancy
  • regular reporting to landlords

What is a Fully Managed Guaranteed Rent product?

This means that we will agree a guaranteed monthly payment (a landlord may call this “rent”) to the landlord in exchange for letting and managing their property. The first payment due to the landlord will be paid monthly in advance on a date to be agreed with the landlord, and payments will then continue monthly in advance on the same day each month.

The landlord will not get a choice of tenants and will not be involved in the letting or ongoing management of their property for the agreed term. During this time all lettings and management issues will be handled by Luton Lets, so in effect this is a “no involvement, no hassle” product for landlords and should be sold as such.

In the event of voids (a tenant moving out of the property), or rent arrears (a tenant not paying the rent due to Luton Lets), this will in no way affect the guaranteed agreed payment that Luton Lets will continue to make to the landlord.

In the event of Luton Lets deciding to take legal action against the tenant (including removing the tenant from the property), then this will not affect the guaranteed agreed payment that Luton Lets will continue to make to the Landlord. The landlord may be asked to assist Luton Lets by signing formal paperwork, but they will not suffer loss through any legal action that Luton Lets has to take against the tenant.

Who will be guaranteeing the rent?

Luton Lets is a service developed and run by Luton Council. Therefore the financial backing and support comes directly from us.

How much will this cost the council if no one pays their rent?

We have developed an initial two-year business plan that has been independently reviewed and agreed by an expert in the field of Social Letting Agencies. This plan allows for a certain amount of rent arrears, property voids and damage caused by tenants that might not be able to be recouped by Luton Lets.

How much will the landlord monthly payment be?

A major objective of Luton Lets is to keep properties affordable for low and middle income households. Therefore it is anticipated that rent levels and landlord payments will be below those achievable on the open rental market. This is one of the reasons for offering the incentive of guaranteed rent and full management to make up for the potential reduction in income that a landlord may be able to achieve on the open market.

All landlord payments will be negotiated directly with the landlord, once a member of the Luton Lets team has visited and assessed the property but a ball park figure can be obtained by speaking to the SLA manager.

Will my money be ‘safe’?

Landlords should only entrust their property and rental income to an organisation with a solid and safe reputation, who operate to the highest professional standards. Luton Lets has been set up by Luton Borough Council and as such you can be confident we are accountable, reliable and with you for the long-term.

What about repairs and maintenance to my property?

This product also offers the option of a responsive repairs service. This means Luton Lets will undertake repairs/maintenance that is the landlords responsibility and then recharge the landlord (normally this will mean deducting the relevant sums from future payments due to the landlord). For works of up to £200 this will take place automatically, and for works likely to exceed this amount the landlord will be notified prior to the works going ahead.

The landlord may elect to undertake their own repair work, and if this is the case any repairs that are highlighted will be referred to the landlord for action.

Whether the landlord elects to undertake their own repairs or use the inclusive service, in the event of emergency repairs (repairs that impact on the immediate welfare of the tenant), Luton Lets will carry out an emergency response and assessment visit, to ensure the tenant and property are protected.

What if the repairs required were due to tenant damage?

Any works required that are the tenant's responsibility, or due to tenant action/inaction will be carried out and the cost recovered from the tenant, with no effect on the landlords payments.

We will ensure that upon return of your property to you, it is returned in a comparable condition to when we took the property on from you. In order to ensure this we will carry out a pre-contract inventory and another at the time of property return.

Do I need permission from anyone to let my property?

If your property is mortgaged you must advise your bank or mortgagee that you propose letting your property and obtain their written consent. This is not required where you have a stated ‘buy to let’ mortgage.

If your property is leasehold, your head lease will state whether you require permission from the Freeholder to sub-let.

What insurances will I need?

You must ensure that your insurances allow you to let the property. It is advisable to contact all insurance companies who offer you cover for your property, and ensure they put in writing that cover applies even when the property is tenanted.

We can assist you if you require cover for any or all of the following: buildings; contents; legal or rental insurance. Please just ask one of our team.

What about bills?

Luton Lets will advise all utilities (gas, water, electricity, council tax and so forth) of the change of occupancy, tenants details and of their responsibility for the bills. We will arrange for meter readings on check in and check out, so that accounts can be prepared and the utility companies advised.

My property is outside of the borough, does the guaranteed rent scheme still apply?

One of our team will be happy to discuss each case on its merits, particularly those where we are already working with a landlord, or where the property is just outside the borough boundaries.

If I wanted to rent out my home, why would I choose Luton Lets rather than a High Street agency?

We offer a number of advantages to landlords:

  • guaranteed rent throughout the term of our agreement, means that you have no concerns whether your tenant pays their rent or not, your rent is guaranteed by Luton Lets, irrespective of whether the tenant pays us or not, and even if the property is empty.
  • Luton Lets is backed by Luton Borough Council, meaning accountability, reliability and financial security
  • we will always work from a list of responsible prospective tenants who we have pre-checked and referenced
  • flexibility – you have the option of using our responsive repairs provided by our in-house team, at very competitive rates, or undertaking the works yourself
  • a hassle-free letting experience, with rent paid from an agreed date, whether we have a tenant ready or not
  • no direct or hidden fees to Landlords, the payment we agree with you is the amount you will receive
  • inventory undertaken at property sign up and your property returned to you in the same condition (accepting fair wear and tear)

How long is the initial agreement between the landlord and Luton Lets?

The initial agreement is for a minimum of 1 year, so that we can offer a settled and secure home for tenants. We are happy to agree longer agreements with landlords if they desire, but would suggest annual break clauses in any case, so that all parties retain flexibility and an element of control over their properties.

What are the fees and how much will it cost me?

There are no fees whatsoever. Luton Lets takes care of everything from a pre inspection visit, preparing the management agreement to fully managing the property and supporting tenancy for the landlord. And at the end of the initial agreement there are no charges to continue into a 2nd year.

What happens at the end of the 1-year agreement?

At the end of the initial agreement the landlord will hopefully decide to continue with the scheme, we will start this process in the 10th month. If the landlord wants the property back, we will work with the tenant to try to find alternative accommodation for them, so that the property can be handed back empty.

Due to notice periods and individual circumstances, this will not always be possible, but Luton Lets will work with the landlord to ensure all possible avenues are explored prior to handing back of the property.

Should the landlord wish to continue into a second year, the monthly landlord payment will be reviewed and an uplift offered where possible.

I want to let my property through Luton Lets – what are the next steps?

Contact us and discuss the rental income for the property. If you are happy to proceed on this basis we will arrange for the property to be inspected to ensure that an accurate record of condition is captured, to ensure the property meets the minimum letting standard, and if it is appropriate for our scheme.

If the landlord is happy with the outcome of the inspection then we will provide an inspection report via email. We will then send out a landlord application form requesting a documents such as proof of ownership, buildings insurance, gas safety certificates, energy performance certificate etc.. (we can help with certification if the landlord does not have these in place).

Once we have the necessary paperwork and certificates from the landlord we will agree a date when our agreement will start (this will usually be within 2 weeks). We will arrange for the first months’ payment to the landlord, to be paid on that date.

This will end the landlords immediate involvement in the letting process.

We will then identify a suitable tenant, arrange an assured shorthold tenancy agreement for them to sign, and a moving in date and the tenancy will commence.

What will happen if my neighbours contact me about any tenancy issues?

Luton Lets will manage the property on the landlord's behalf and they will be given a dedicated tenancy manager, who will act as landlord contact for all properties they may let with us. They should refer any property or tenancy issues to their dedicated account manager who will deal with them on their behalf.

How will I know what is happening in my property during our agreement?

We will provide landlords with a dedicated named tenancy manager who is responsible for overseeing tenancies at their property. We will provide them with a quarterly report detailing how the tenancy is progressing, rent payments, condition of the property and any other relevant details we are able to provide. At anytime the landlord can make an appointment with their dedicated tenancy manager to discuss the tenancy or future thoughts on how we can work together.

Are there any restrictions on number of properties a Landlord can have with the scheme?

No, a landlord can have as many properties with the scheme as they like. The requirements for each property are the same in terms of minimum standards we expect and minimum length of agreements (1 year).

In the event that a landlord has more than 1 property with Luton Lets we will endeavour to ensure that the Luton Lets staff member dedicated to that landlords account, remains the same, providing the landlord with a consistent quality service.

How will we work with landlords to get the agency off the ground?

We already have good and productive relationships with landlords in the area and will be working with them to grow our contacts. We are happy to meet with individual landlords to discuss the scheme and how it might work for them and their properties.

We will hold a launch event at Luton Town Hall in the spring, as well as ongoing targeted marketing through adverts in publications and other media throughout the summer.

Tenants

Who will be tenants of Luton Lets?

Initially we will be letting properties to residents referred by Luton Borough Council, who have an identified local housing need. We will always work from a list of responsible prospective tenants who we have pre-checked and referenced.

What does “pre-checked and referenced” mean?

“Pre-checked and referenced” means that all tenants must have undertaken an appointment with a Housing Advisor from Luton Borough Council, during which their housing history and suitability for the private rented sector will be discussed and assessed. All checks that are appropriate will then be carried out before a tenant is “approved to apply” to be a tenant of Luton Lets.

All tenants of Luton Lets will be made aware of their responsibilities and obligations as a tenant in the private rented sector. Tenants will receive a welcome pack and their tenancy agreement will be explained to them in detail.

What are the benefits for tenants?

There is an affordability issue for local people on low and middle incomes accessing the private rental market in Luton. Luton Borough Council has a desire to assist these residents with access to good quality, affordable and sustainable local accommodation.

Therefore, as well as offering affordable rents, tenants will not have to pay any fees to use Luton Lets, and they will also be guaranteed a property that meets our quality standards. Further, if their landlord chooses to, they could also benefit from our well established emergency and responsive repairs service.

Can anyone apply to be a Luton Lets tenant?

Initially all our tenants will be taken from a list of people who have presented to the council and have been assessed as having a local housing need.

This is not a direct access scheme for tenants, so in order to be considered as a tenant for Luton Lets, a resident will need to make an appointment to see a housing advisor at Luton Borough Council, where their need and subsequent options can be discussed.

Anyone who wishes to take this option should initially call 01582 510370 and ask to speak to a housing advisor.

Do I need to provide a damage deposit or any other tenancy fees?

No. However, we do carry out pre-tenancy inventories detailing the condition of all items and the structure of the property. If at the end of your tenancy (or before if we deem necessary), there are works that are required to bring the property back up to the condition in which we let it to you, then these costs will become your responsibility and we will pass these onto you.

General

What is a Social Letting Agency?

A Social Letting Agency (SLA) operates in a very similar way to a High Street Letting Agent, in that it brokers tenancies between landlords and tenants, managing those tenancies on behalf of the landlord.

However, a SLA has a different ethos and targets to those that a High Street Agent may set for itself, some key Social Letting Agency objectives are listed below:

  • to not charge tenants for the service, making it accessible for those on low incomes
  • to not make a profit from housing those threatened with homelessness, which would be distributed to shareholders, but instead, to stabilise the costs of delivering a homelessness service, and reduce the use of temporary accommodation
  • an SLA service is specifically targeted at individuals and groups who would not normally be able to use a High Street Letting Agent, (due to costs, referencing requirements etc.), this tends to be a large percentage of those presenting as homeless at a Council and/or currently residing in TA
  • to provide a service more focused on supporting the tenant and tenancy, including a different style and depth of service to High Street Letting Agents.
  • to ensure that through the work of the SLA, wider strategic objectives for the borough are delivered. These include key targets such as income maximisation for tenants, up skilling tenants to assist them with work opportunities and quality of life and welfare issues.

What will the new Social Letting Agency (SLA) be called?

Our SLA is called Luton Lets. It is important that any reference to the SLA is referred to as Luton Lets, as we are trying to build brand recognition and a place in the market.

What will Luton Lets do?

Luton Lets will operate in a very similar way to a High Street Letting Agent, but is designed to be non-profit making (i.e. no profits are distributed to owners or shareholders), and to offer a fairer deal for tenants:

  • properties will be procured and let at affordable rents, at or below Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. This means middle and low income households will be more able to afford properties in the private rented sector
  • the SLAs core services, of letting and managing private rented sector properties, carrying out inventories and inspections, collecting and paying the rent etc…. will be free of fees for prospective Tenants and Landlords
  • the agency will be primarily targeted at residents who would not normally be able to use High Street Letting Agents, for example, because of the high fees and deposits required. In Luton, most people seeking housing advice from the council fall into this group

Why is Luton Council setting up Luton Lets?

Providing more affordable housing in Luton is a priority for the council. We believe that setting up a Social Letting Agency, will create greater access to the private rented sector (PRS) for low and middle income residents as well as driving up housing and property management standards.

We are obliged to find homes for residents at risk of homelessness, and by helping to place them into decent private rented homes we can also reduce the amount we spend on costly temporary housing.

Luton Lets will help us deliver on a number of wider key strategic corporate priorities including access to decent, suitable and affordable homes, employment and cycle of poverty issues, best start for children and independent living.

Will all the properties/Landlords managed by the new agency be in Luton?

Initially all properties eligible for our new guaranteed rent full management product will be in Luton, although we are happy to discuss individual cases, particularly those where we are already working with a landlord, or where the property is just outside the borough boundaries.

Landlords themselves do not need to be resident in the borough to be eligible for the scheme, indeed some landlords may not even be resident in the UK and this is fine, as we are equipped to assist non-UK resident landlords.

How many properties are we aiming to have on our books?

We are aiming to build the business gradually to ensure we provide a good quality service to landlords. Our business plan expects us to have 50 properties under management by the end of our first full operating year.

Will setting up Luton Lets, and running it, cost the council lots of money?

We have developed an initial two-year business plan that has been independently reviewed and agreed by an expert in the field of Social Letting Agencies.

Most of the functions and expertise that we need to run Luton Lets already exist within the Council’s housing service. For example we will use our existing Housing Officers to provide ongoing tenancy support to our tenancies. We will engage a manager for Luton Lets to drive our new work and ensure consistent delivery against our quality standards and target property numbers, and the cost of this appointment is included within our business plan.

This means the cost of setting up and running the agency will be minimal. It is anticipated that the increased number of homes available at affordable rental rate through Luton Lets will help reduce the amount the Council has to spend on emergency housing, which can be very expensive. This means the expectation is that Luton Lets will help the Council save money over the initial two year business plan.

Doesn’t Luton Lets directly compete with Local Letting Agents?

Luton Lets has been set up to help those individuals who cannot normally use a High Street Letting Agent. This is because High Street Letting Agents charge tenants fees, require guarantors, and have strict referencing criteria, which put their services out of reach for some low and middle income families. So, Luton Lets is not competing for a market that is already well serviced and developed. We are trying to help a client group whose options are limited or non-existent and therefore we do not feel we are competing directly with existing local Agents and businesses.

Find out more

If you have a property in Luton and would like to find out more about Luton Lets please contact:
 

 Contact information

 
Social lettings agency manager
LBC Town Hall Extension 3rd Floor George Street, Luton, LU1 2BQ
Tel: 01582 546436
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