Blog: Meeting housing demand, raising standards: social landlords and the private rented sector
Weslo were one of the first social landlords in Scotland to venture into the private rented sector market. Ahead of next week’s Shelter Scotland conference on the private rented sector, Mike Bruce, Weslo’s chief executive, shares his perspective on this move.
Firstly, any social landlord looking to make the move into the private rented sector needs to study their local market very carefully. Markets vary from area to area – rural, semi-rural or cities – and different dynamics will apply in different areas. In many of the big cities, for example, there are already many big providers and the aspiring RSL needs to be sure about where it will fit.
In our local market of West Lothian we felt that there was definitely a demand we could meet in the provision of mid-market and market rents – i.e. off the shelf purchases. This would then allow us to offer the expertise and reputation that we have built up in the social rented sector, to the increasingly complex private rented sector.
As this element of our work expanded and our presence grew, we began to encounter many private landlords who were increasingly concerned with the changing legislative and regulatory landscape. The potential expense of compliance, and their ability to keep up with it all both being key factors. We found significant numbers were looking to either get out of the sector or work with specialist agencies to help them navigate the private rented market.
To accommodate that demand, we altered our offer to include that of the specialist lettings agency. We’re already in the business of social housing, used to working in a tight regulatory and legislative regime, so we’re now offering agency services in the private housing sector through the offices of our subsidiary company, trading as Weslo Property Management.
We recruited a Head of Residential Services to lead on our private rented sector activities and she’s been extremely active in establishing us in the local market and growing the business. To date we have some 40 individual landlords as clients, managing some 120-odd properties on their behalf.
As well as studying the market and identifying your strategy, making sure you have the right skills in place is also essential. Although it’s still housing, the private rented sector is a very different market.
Originally we felt that we could bolt on the private rented housing to the portfolios of our existing housing officers. But as our work in the sector progressed we realised we needed additional skills to better-operate in the new and changing environment we were entering. The legislative environment is totally different – with different tenancy agreements and legal remedies for instance – where the needs and expectations of the tenants can be markedly different from those we were used to in the social sector.
It’s been an interesting journey and one that we’re very much excited about as we play our part in helping to achieve the cross-sector goal of creating a better more professional private rented sector. This is why we’re pleased to sponsor next week’s Shelter Scotland conference ‘putting it into practice’ and share the expertise we’ve accumulated in this area to date.
Mike Bruce is chief executive of Weslo Housing Management, who is the principal sponsor of next week’s Shelter Scotland private rented sector conference. For information on speakers and how to book, click here.