Landlords are being given assistance in order for them to help people who are at risk of homelessness. The idea has been introduced by Barrow Borough Council, which is offering incentives to landlords such as free gas and electricity checks. As in many other districts, the Cumbrian town has a severe lack of affordable housing and social housing in the borough. So now the local authority wants to work with the private rental sector to combat the problem.

The initiative would offer free checks for gas appliances, electrical appliances, CO2 detectors and smoke alarms to make sure that the properties meet safety standards set by the council. Barrow council leader, Councillor Dave Pidduck, said that it is an important initiative. He said the town has landlords offering short-term and long-term lets. If they join the scheme, it will benefit residents as well as themselves.

The council reportedly has a crisis in that there is a lack of affordable housing for its residents. By bringing buy-to-let landlords into the fold, it is hoped to increase the number of properties available. The scheme will mean the council is able to offer leases from six to 12 months to people using the local authority’s homelessness service. In the past 12 months, around 260 people avoided being made homeless because of the work of the council’s housing team. This latest initiative will be another string to the bow in the fight against homelessness. The council recognised that there are many good-quality private landlords within the borough. Councillor Brendan Sweeney said that it is hoped that the scheme will encourage more people to join them.

Barrow is still one of the cheapest areas to invest in property in the UK. A two-bedroom terraced house sold for £69,000 earlier this year, according to Rightmove, while a three-bedroom semi-detached property sold for £94,000. So if there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes, then it looks like a decent area for buy-to-let investors to consider.

However, although the move is being seen as a positive gesture, landlords fear it is not enough. They argue that the reason rents are rising and becoming out of reach of more people is because of the financial straits that property investors are facing at the moment. Stamp duty imposed on second and subsequent homes, tax relief being phased out and the difficulties of finding finance are all taking their toll. Many landlords are selling up, while those that remain need to make a reasonable income. Unsurprisingly, they are having to pass on some of the additional costs to their tenants in the form of increased rents. They also argue that they would be more inclined to help the council tackle homelessness if the local authority could guarantee that their rents would be paid and any damage repaired. Others go a step further and have suggested that the council should be lobbying the government to do more to support landlords and social housing initiatives. If the tax hikes were repealed, then landlords may be more inclined to stay in the sector and lower rents. Until then, landlords will continue to sell up, which means more tenants may need to be evicted as the properties are sold on the open market.

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