A so-called ethical lettings agency run jointly by two local authorities is handling private rental properties but is charging landlords just 6.0 per cent plus VAT for what it calls “a professional management service” - far below the local norm.
SeaMoor Lettings is run by South Hams and West Devon councils, and has just launched a new website in a bid to woo private landlord clients.
Some 32 landlords currently use the service, with 36 homes let through SeaMoor Lettings across the two council areas - each of which has significant numbers of second homes and Airbnb short lets, while also having substantial local authority waiting lists.
SeaMoor Lettings also offers a six-week rent and deposit guarantee.
However, the downsides for the landlords is that the agency decides the tenants and urges landlords to charge a lower monthly rent because of the low management fee.
The service from the agency includes tenant selection, credit checks and referencing; preparing tenancy agreements and associated legal documents; quarterly management inspections including all outdoor spaces; a six week rent and damage deposit guarantee; a 100 per cent guarantee of the rent when the property is empty up to a maximum two months; the payment of all utility bills; rent account management; a comprehensive inventory; and access for landlords to affordable finance packages for property improvements>
Councillor Judy Pearce of South Hams council says: "We're facing a huge housing crisis and we need action right now before more people are forced to move away. Big problems need innovative solutions and together with West Devon we're one of the only councils in the UK to offer an ethical lettings service to get the private rental market to deliver more affordable rental rates.
"Just like opting for ethical banking, SeaMoor Lettings gives landlords the choice to manage their property investment ethically too. Please do take a look at our new website and join our ethical lettings revolution. You'll help families and people who are not already on the housing ladder to stay living close to their schools and workplaces and help our communities to thrive.”
And Barry Ratcliffe of West Devon council adds: “Local rents have spiralled out of the reach of many local people including those doing some of the most essential jobs in our communities, such as care support workers. It means that some people on lower wages have to move out of the area. As a result, there is a local shortage of people available to work in these important roles, including care, retail and hospitality.
"I appeal to anyone who has a property they rent out in West Devon to get in touch, By joining us, you will be helping to make sure these local people serving their community can still afford to live here and provide us with the services we need - together we can help our communities to thrive."
There is no salary cap to be eligible to rent a property. However priority will always be given to households with lower incomes.