The Ethical Lettings Agency, a community interest company (CIC) was officially opened by Redcar and Cleveland Council leader Sue Jeffrey.
Agency director Carla Keegans, an experienced housing professional of 15 years, has returned home to Redcar to open a business she describes as “a letting agency with a conscience”.
With business partner Emma Martin, she aims to “shake up the lettings industry” by charging fair fees with no hidden costs, using a model based on quality services, rather than the out-dated sales model.
Carla has also been appointed as a board director at Erimus Housing, part of the Thirteen group, after giving up a well-paid job as head of housing at Northumberland Council to return to Redcar.
“My experience working for various housing and public sector organisations has convinced me that there is a need in the market for an agency that provides a better service to landlords and tenants,” said Carla, who previously worked in a senior housing role within the City of London Corporation, whilst also working in the housing sector in York and Sunderland.
“With experience of letting and managing many thousands of private and public properties and tenancies, we know what we’re doing and know we can save landlords money, time and hassle.”
Saltburn-born Carla, who was brought up on Sandringham Road near Redcar railway station, said: “The only place I wanted to start this was at home, in Redcar. I’ve lived all over the country but Redcar has always been home. I came back here to set up this agency, to give back and to do my bit in helping to make Teesside great again.
This is where I feel I can make the most positive difference – here within the private rented sector on Teesside. I aim to do what I’ve always done but in a different way, putting all of my experience to good use for a cause that’s close to my heart.
I’ve never been motivated by money. I got into housing because I fundamentally believe that everyone needs a home.
There is no other agency that does what we do. We want to make a positive impact on the sector.
“As a community interest company, we aim to do good and give back to the community. We’re committed to reinvesting all our profits into the local community, through a grant programme for community groups. Within two years, we aim to reinvest at least £30,000.”
But Carla warned: “Redcar and Cleveland is now at real risk of seeing pockets of housing market failure, as has already happened in some areas.
“There’s a real danger that absent and rogue landlords could start taking hold and that can lead to complete decline and eventually demolition of whole areas of housing.
“By delivering high-quality services based on our experience of managing large volumes of private and public properties and tenancies, we aim to keep good landlords in the market.”
The Ethical Lettings Agency don’t charge fees to tenants who receive housing benefit, while fees for tenants not on housing benefit are capped at £175.
Carla also stressed that most problems between landlords and tenants can be prevented. “Unfortunately, some agents can be part of the problem, as they have little experience. We are qualified housing professionals and members of the UK Association of Letting Agents, ensuring we operate to the highest of standards.”
At the launch event, council leader Sue Jeffrey, herself an experienced housing professional and former chair of Tees Valley Housing, said: “I am delighted to welcome this new business to Redcar - a lettings agency that will work to support both landlords and tenants in these changing times. I wish them the very best of luck.”
She told invited guests, including councillors and representatives of charities and businesses with a remit in the private rented sector: “It’s excellent to see the agency working in local partnerships, to help strengthen our private rented sector, which is home to an increasing number of people.”
The Ethical Lettings Agency is open to all landlords and tenants in the Redcar and Teesside private rented sector. In particular, the agency works with landlords to help manage their rented properties as a business, helping to prevent potential problems and save money.
For more information on The Ethical Lettings Agency, call 01642 484845.