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If the prospect of guaranteed rental income for your property for three years sounds attractive, coupled with the knowledge it will provide a home for local people in immediate housing need, a council-backed leasing scheme may be just right for you.

Shire Homes, set up and funded solely by South Cambridgeshire District Council, took on its first house in 2017 in a private sector leasing scheme designed to help people struggling to find affordable, secure private accommodation in an area where rents are very high.

The first property taken on by Shire Homes in 2017 was in Foxton. Picture: Shire Homes (54809221)
The first property taken on by Shire Homes in 2017 was in Foxton. Picture: Shire Homes (54809221)

That first property in Foxton housed one of those local families most in need - they had been unable to find somewhere to live due to credit issues.

Following on from that initial success, Shire Homes has gone from strength to strength and its property portfolio has grown to around 60, ranging from bedsits to four-bedroom houses, along with five further houses of multiple occupation (HMO) offering 21 rooms for single-person households.

A Shire Homes property in Cambourne. Picture: Shire Homes (54809211)
A Shire Homes property in Cambourne. Picture: Shire Homes (54809211)

Shire Homes aims to create a win-win scenario for landlords and tenants.

Landlords sign up for a minimum of three years and their property is rented out on a six or 12-month assured shorthold tenancy. Benefits for landlords include:

  • Guaranteed rental income - even when properties are empty between tenancies
  • A full management service with no monthly fee to handle maintenance, inventories, tenancy changes and minor repairs
  • Rent and service charge collection
  • No negotiations with tenants over deposits
  • Regular property inspections
  • Return of the property in good condition
  • Possible extension of the lease beyond the original three years.

As Shire Homes has to work within limits set by the Valuation Office Agency, the rents it can offer owners may be lower than those on the open market - but for landlords, the rental income is guaranteed for three years and the comprehensive management service has no hidden charges.

A Shire Homes property in Bar Hill. Picture: Shire Homes (54809207)
A Shire Homes property in Bar Hill. Picture: Shire Homes (54809207)

Peter Hubbard, a Shire Homes landlord, said: “I am not from the area where my property is located, so having Shire Homes manage the property is a huge benefit. If any work is required or any issues arise, they will be dealt with immediately and I will only be involved if it’s a serious matter. This gives me huge peace of mind and the team take all the potential stress and concerns away from not only myself but also from the tenant.

“I have no issues about rent being paid or having to chase for any back payments. Rent is paid in advance and is guaranteed. Shire Homes provide regular checks and inspections on the property and I have full confidence in them. I can strongly recommend their service and I am also looking to place additional properties!”

Tenants all have a link to South Cambridgeshire, they are in immediate housing need and some are deemed to be ‘at risk of homelessness’.

A Shire Homes property in Caxton. Picture: Shire Homes (54809215)
A Shire Homes property in Caxton. Picture: Shire Homes (54809215)

The lower rents that Shire Homes charges - based on rents of the bottom 30th percentile of properties in the area - may represent tenants’ best chance of staying in the area in the short term, and provide them with a stepping stone to finding a more permanent home.

A current Shire Homes tenant said: “When Covid had shut down my industry and my income, resulting in me and my son being homeless, Shire Homes found me the most perfect home. Louise Moulding [Shire Homes lettings manager] was totally straightforward, super organised and efficient, arranging to meet me at the property a day or so after allocating the house to me.

“At the property she showed me around and gave me all the necessary information regarding the utilities and house security, even down to details such as bin collections and compost bins in the garden, all with an enthusiastic gentle approach, clearly happy to see my relief and excitement at finally having a safe home.

“At a time when my mental health was at an all-time low and I was terrified of never being able to get myself and my son out of a poverty trap, Shire Homes completely saved me. There was never any judgement or rudeness, they were always incredibly kind and helpful.

“To be given a safe space to live and start to rebuild my life has been the greatest gift, but to be also given a mobile number to contact Louise if something goes wrong with the house, or I need help understanding the housing benefits, has meant that I feel there is someone I can turn to for help and, finally, I have some support for the first time ever in my life.

“I cannot thank Shire Homes and the council enough for all their amazing work giving me the safety net I needed to start to rebuild my life and my wellbeing and that of my son.”

With the pressure on housing showing no signs of abating, Shire Homes hopes to add 10 further units per year to its portfolio across the district, and it even has a few houses ‘over the border’ in Cambridge, Royston and St Neots.

Louise Moulding, Shire Homes lettings manager. Picture: Shire Homes (54809223)
Louise Moulding, Shire Homes lettings manager. Picture: Shire Homes (54809223)

Lettings manager Louise Moulding leads a team of two at Shire Homes and is urging prospective landlords to get in contact so it can enhance its stock of properties.

She said: “Whatever size property you have, from a bedsit to a four-bedroom house, we are interested in hearing from you. We are a reputable firm, backed and funded by the council, we offer a very professional and personal service and we deal with people on a day-to-day basis. To date, we have assisted 123 separate households into our accommodation.”

A Shire Homes property in Callander Close, Cambridge. Picture: Shire Homes (54809209)
A Shire Homes property in Callander Close, Cambridge. Picture: Shire Homes (54809209)

Each property needs to meet minimum standards for rental. Shire Homes meets the landlord at the property to complete a survey, discuss the lease options and the rent it can offer. After a final inspection, the lease is signed and management responsibility passes to Shire Homes.

Cllr John Batchelor, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing. Picture: South Cambridgeshire District Council (54809217)
Cllr John Batchelor, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing. Picture: South Cambridgeshire District Council (54809217)

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr John Batchelor, said: “One of our business plan priorities is to provide housing that is truly affordable for everyone to live in, and Shire Homes plays an important part in that pledge. Through Shire Homes, we provide secure, affordable and good quality housing to residents of South Cambridgeshire who are in need of housing quickly. A key element is that we charge lower than market rents in order to help address the local housing shortage.

“Landlords can sign up to be a part of the hassle-free service that we provide, safe in the knowledge that their properties are helping to meet demand for affordable housing.

“We take a real pride in managing around 60 properties for the benefit of both landlords and tenants – and our dedicated housing team at the council is always on hand to offer advice and support wherever possible, especially to our vulnerable tenants.”

For more information, contact Louise Moulding on 01954 713406 or email shire.homes@scambs.gov.uk.

For more on Shire Homes, visit scambs.gov.uk/housing/shire-homes-lettings/rent-out-your-property-through-shire-homes-lettings/.



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