London Council looks to private landlords to cut waiting list
Tuesday 07th August 2012 - 3:12pm



In a "London first", Harrow Council has set up a letting agency to match residents on the housing waiting list with private landlords.


Called Help2Let, the agency is a way to bridge the gap between the high demand for social housing and a lack of supply, which is getting worse due to reductions in government funding and the impact of the recession. The council said it ensures the less well off who are unable to secure social housing are not forced to find sub-standard accommodation.


Under the scheme, the council puts residents in need of social housing in touch with approved private landlords, whose properties must meet set standards. This tenant finding service is paid for by the landlords, who in turn receive expert advice and support from an account manager in the Help2Let team. In addition, the council provides landlords with a two month rent guarantee bond.


Portfolio Holder for Housing on Harrow Council, Cllr Bob Currie said: "Everyone deserves to live in a decent home and this scheme is about finding quality accommodation for some of the least well off in our communities.


"It is a huge challenge meeting the demand for social housing, but with government cuts and a weak housing market, the problem is only going to get worse. We do not want to see our residents forced into sub-standard, unsafe homes.


"That's why we are teaming up with private landlords to stand up for local people and give them access to quality, affordable homes. We hope it will also drive up standards in the private rented sector across the whole borough."


Gaye O’Connell describes her experience of the Harrow Help2Let service.


She moved into her new property just days before Christmas.


“It might sound dramatic, but I don’t know what I would have done without it. I was living in unsuitable, over crowded accommodation and it had affected my health.


"I know the council don’t have many houses to give people, so I was sure I would be waiting for years and years, but once I was put in touch with the Help2Let team at Harrow Council things started happening for me, very quickly.


"They managed to find this flat for myself and my son that is near his school and gives us our own space. Without them I never would have got to this point, it would have been impossible on my own to find decent private accommodation I could afford.


"My son is so happy here, that has been the biggest impact of this move. The whole thing was painless, I couldn’t recommend it enough and there are many other people like me out there that need this help too.”


Landlord Mr. Arun Debnath (pictured), North Harrow has used the Council’s Help2Let service since it began last summer. He currently has six properties rented through the scheme.


“I work with other councils too and none of them offer a service as good as this. As far as I can see it is a winner for everyone involved, the landlord, tenant and the council.


"I honestly think that this is the way forward and I would be happy to recommend it to anyone. The service is friendly and professional - in fact far more professional in my experience that a lot of private letting agencies.


"Other councils offer incentives to landlords to rent their properties to residents on their waiting list, but what good is a couple of hundred pounds to a landlord? If you don’t have a good service, good tenants and the backup from the council, a small cash payment is not going to encourage me.”