Capital Letters is a purpose driven, not for profit, private landlord working to end homelessness in London. We source and manage affordable, secure and safe homes for families experiencing homelessness – because a home can change everything.

We are part of the solution – and you can be too.

Our growing team needs a passionate, talented, and committed Health and Safety Compliance Manager to help may 2,500 properties into 2,500 homes!

Apply here

Capital Letters is a purpose driven, not for profit, private landlord working to end homelessness in London. We source and manage affordable, secure and safe homes for families experiencing homelessness – because a home can change everything.

We are part of the solution – and you can be too.

Our growing team needs a passionate, talented, and committed Health and Safety Compliance Manager to help may 2,500 properties into 2,500 homes!

Capital Letters is growing, and we’re going to need some more brilliant team members as we deliver our £750m partnership with housing charity Home Safe Housing and take on up to 2,500 homes for Londoners in need.

Find out about our Income Collection Officer role by clicking here.

Capital Letters is a purpose driven, not for profit, private landlord working to end homelessness in London. We source and manage affordable, secure and safe homes for families experiencing homelessness – because a home can change everything.

We are part of the solution – and you can be too.

Our growing team needs a passionate, talented, and committed Housing Coordinator to help may 2,500 properties into 2,500 homes!

Apply here – https://bit.ly/3JFvuaS

Capital Letters, the unique not-for-profit owned by London boroughs is calling for more financial support for tenants, landlords and boroughs who have been hit by the rental crisis in London.

PRESS RELEASE

Capital Letters, the unique not-for-profit owned by London boroughs is calling for more financial support for tenants, landlords and boroughs who have been hit by the rental crisis in London. 

Sue Edmonds, Capital Letters CEO said “The latest government data shows that 104,510 households were in temporary accommodation in Q1 of 2023. This is the highest number on record and a significant increase on the pre-pandemic average.” 

“To prevent the homelessness crisis worsening and to prevent the Private Rented Sector from collapsing we need urgent Treasury intervention.” 

Capital Letters are experts in the private rented sector across London and have seen the impact that a lack of supply is having on affordability and in turn rates of homelessness, we are calling on the Government to: 

  • Increase Local Housing Allowance rates to reflect market rents and track these into the future. The latest government estimates suggested that the cost of increasing LHA rates to the 30th percentile would be £700m for the financial year 2023-24 across Great Britain. In 2021/22, local authorities in England alone spent more than double this figure, £1.6bn, on the provision of temporary accommodation for homeless households. 
  • Apply a commensurate increase to the benefits cap to ensure that those in London with higher rents are not penalised.  
  • Encourage landlords to stay in the market and invest in upgrading their properties including through introducing incentives for landlords to increase the energy performance of their property through a tax restructuring to allow energy performance improvements to be deductible against rental income. In addition, low or no interest loans should be introduced to
  • Look at ways to bring empty homes and buildings back into use to boost supply in the short-term, providing there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that these are high quality and are delivered with local authority input. Government data shows that there are nearly 90,000 vacant dwellings in London currently. Grants should be made available to bring these back into use and improve their energy efficiency. 


“The market is failing the vulnerable” Sue Edmonds commented “By that I mean an ecosystem of interlocking vulnerabilities – financially vulnerable landlords who are working with increased regulation and increased tax burden and mortgage rates, financially vulnerable local authorities who, across London as a whole, are paying £60m a week for temporary accommodation, and most importantly ordinary Londoners – Londoners who are affected by the cost of living crisis unable to pay their rent or mortgage and are facing homelessness, who are experiencing homelessness, and those who are trapped in Temporary Accommodation – Each part of this ecosystem will be helped by our 4 priorities.”

London accounts for 60% (56,500) of England’s households in temporary accommodation. Capital Letters and EVO share a mission to end homelessness.

Not-for-profit company Capital Letters has made a major move in its work to tackle the homelessness crisis by partnering with unique property maintenance company EVO Digital Technologies (EVO) to digitalise its repairs, maintenance and compliance services through a unique tenant-driven platform.

By automating a large part of the administration process related to the management of the repairs service through EVO with the confidence that tenants will benefit from an excellent and responsive service, Capital Letters can reinvest its time and resources into finding more homes for homeless families in London.

Capital Letters was established in 2019 in response to London’s homelessness crisis and mounting costs for councils. Funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the Company’s free service gives landlords easy and efficient access to suitable tenants across London whilst ensuring that properties meet required standards. By working in partnership with London boroughs and private landlords, Capital Letters has helped over 4,000 families find a secure home since they started three years ago.

In March 2022, DLUHC statistics show there were 56,500 households in Temporary Accommodation (TA) in London, representing 60% of the total across England. Of these, over 38,000 had children (68%). Capital Letters’ members expect this number to rise to 100,000 during the current financial year.

The company was created on a pan-London basis to enable boroughs to work collaboratively to combine resources, drive efficiency, equalise access and fair distribution of properties for members, reduce costs and competition for homes while increasing supply, support tenancies to be successful and deliver positive system change for London.

The partnership with EVO will allow Capital Letters to offer a holistic tenant focused housing management service, by using innovative and customer focused technology. This will empower tenants to arrange repairs at a time which suits them, rather than a contractor trying to meet arbitrary target dates.

“I am delighted that Capital Letters is partnering with Evo to provide a unique and innovative repairs service which puts tenants at the heart. Innovation is at the heart of what Capital letters does, driving change and creativity in everything we do. This partnership adds breadth and depth to the Company’s range of services as well supporting our primary objective of finding good quality, affordable secure homes so families can move out of temporary accommodation or avoid becoming homeless. Our partnership with EVO will allow us to add further value to our work with our member boroughs, increasing supply to address the homelessness crisis in London, driving up standards in the private rented sector and supporting successful tenancies for both landlords and tenants, ” says Sue Coulson, CEO of Capital Letters.

EVO is a fusion of property professionals, skilled trades and simple technology that transforms the way property management, maintenance and repairs are reported and delivered. Their digital platform connects tenants and landlords with skilled tradespeople in a convenient and transparent environment, allowing for issues to be resolved in the shortest possible time frame. This level of convenience allows issues to be raised and dealt with as they happen, ensuring tenants have a good experience, and landlords do not have a long term build-up of issues or consequential property damage.

“We are proud to embark on this journey with Capital Letters. EVO was born from a desire to improve tenant and landlord experience, as well as to tackle the serious problem of homelessness. I am really pleased that we have found a partner fully aligned with our core values and beliefs. Tenant experience seems to have been forgotten about in recent times but together I believe we can make a real difference” says Steven Rae, CEO of EVO.
By working with Evo, Capital Letters is confident that the Company will be able to deliver an excellent customer-focused repairs and maintenance service for their tenants, ensuring that the Company provides safe and secure homes where families can put down roots.

The main goals of the partnership are to:

  • Reduce homelessness
  • Ensure all accommodation is fully compliant
  • Ensure Capital Letters housing always meets the decent homes standard
  • Improve tenant experience with a completely transparent process, leading to increased engagement and satisfaction
  • Significantly reduce environmental impact through the use of digital solutions, video triage, local tradespeople and an improved first-time fix rate.
  • Build a useful property dataset to inform future investment decisions
  • Provide a seamless digital workflow for tenants, landlords and tradespeople.

EVO currently works with landlords, housing associations and local authorities as part of its shared mission to support people’s access to decent quality housing.

Section 21 allows “no fault” evictions, leading to family homelessness. While some landlords use it as a last resort, others misuse it for arbitrary evictions. The delay in the Renter’s Reform Bill could cause more pre-emptive evictions, especially during holidays. Both landlords and tenants need protection. The urgent need: end Section 21 evictions.

By Sue Edmonds

Section 21 is the largest cause of family homelessness. A family living in rented accommodation is given notice to leave with “no fault” – it’s not arrears, it’s not a breach of tenancy, it’s “no fault”, and they are now homeless as a result.

Section 21 is a double-edged sword used as a last resort – the nuclear option – by good landlords who have been pushed to the end of a difficult relationship with a tenant; there may have been continuous low-level issues, spikes of ASB, arrears accrued and then paid off before action is taken, sometimes for years, and a landlord may just want the tenant to move on.

It’s sometimes quite difficult being a landlord.

However, Section 21 is used on a whim by unscrupulous landlords who don’t care about the tenant, they just want them gone, to raise the rent, to pause letting, to flip a property, or because the tenant complained about something that the landlord should have sorted but didn’t want to.

It’s sometimes quite difficult being a tenant.

Some good tenants have horrible stories about bad landlords…

Some good landlords have horrible stories about bad tenants…

No matter what the reason Section 21 often means one thing – homelessness.

The second reading of the Renter’s Reform Bill this week saw the Government kick the idea of banning Section 21 evictions into the long grass of “the justice system needs to be fit for purpose”, an indefinite delay that will mean more families will experience homelessness.

As an organisation that works with landlords, and as a landlord ourselves, we know that there needs to be protection for landlords who want to safeguard their livelihood and their property. As an organisation that works to support tenants, we know there needs to be protection from arbitrary eviction.

The bolstering of the guidance around evictions where arrears, breeches, ASB are present is welcomed. It gives landlords a clear roadmap, but there also needs to be a pragmatic approach to ensure good landlords aren’t punished, and good tenants aren’t disadvantaged.

The delay in banning Section 21 may have a more practical immediate knock-on though.

There is an increased and immediate risk that landlords who are concerned about the uncertainty and the implications for them, or landlords who are confused by what is coming could use the nuclear option now as some sort of pre-emptive strike – resulting in tenants being evicted “just in case”, resulting in more households become homeless in the lead up to Christmas…

Section 21 evictions need to end now. We’ve been waiting too long.

With the second reading of the Renter’s Reform Bill, we’re calling on the government for balance in support of tenants and landlords.

PRESS RELEASE

Sue Edmonds CEO of Capital Letters said, “We welcome the removal of section 21 or ‘no fault evictions’. These have been one of the largest drivers of family homelessness and have forced many into temporary accommodation. The removal of section 21 gives renters greater protection from unscrupulous landlords; however, we are already seeing unintended consequence of good quality, responsible landlords (the landlords that we work with) leaving the sector due to a perceived lack of powers and an increased risk.”

Recent by research by Savills and LSE co-commissioned by Capital Letters, London Councils and Trust for London found that smaller landlords, at the affordable end of the market were more likely to leave the sector because of increased legislation. Rented accommodation supply in London is down 31% since the pandemic.

“The increased powers for landlords to protect their property from antisocial tenants is a welcome move, though, as ever, there will need to be nuance in the enforcement…” Sue Edmonds continued.

“Capital Letters is both a landlord and a member of a redress scheme; we fully support the introduction of an Ombudsman, and landlord registration. Greater openness and support for both tenants and landlords will improve the experience on both sides.

Capital Letters, in our role of procuring leased properties, and supplying our own homes for London boroughs, currently supply to a higher standard than the proposed minimum and are experts in advising landlords on how to reach those standards. We would urge the Government to go further on minimum standards to ensure families in the UK have better quality, safe and affordable homes.

We feel that this Bill is about improving the experience for tenants and landlords. Protections are needed on both sides, but a robust and pragmatic approach will be required around enforcement and reporting.”

The average London rent is at a record high of £2,627 per calendar month according to property site Rightmove.

Commenting on this figure, Daniel Thwaites, our Head of Housing and Property Income said “There is a huge affordability gap in London. The average household income in London is £2,868 per month – and that leaves Londoners with less than £250 a month for every other necessity. The system needs to change.”

Figures released in July this year from our co-commissioned Savills and LSE research found that only 2.3% of homes on Rightmove were advertised at LHA rates.

Amy Cowan, our Head of Acquisitions and Tenancy Sustainment said: “We know that the 2.3% figure is falling, and we can only see what homes are advertised at, not what the agreed rent is – and as BBC research suggests that up to 30 people are bidding on each home – the final rent is probably beyond LHA.”

To counter the market, we’re working with member boroughs to find better ways of supplying affordable housing to Londoners.

Amy went on to say “We are the change we want to see. We recognised that traditional affordable housing procurement was becoming more difficult, so, with the support of our members, we are offering ethical lettings, leases, management, and procurement.”

Daniel Thwaites added, “Landlords, big and small, want to positively affect society and the communities in which they live and work, and our approach means that they see great ESG returns as well as a robust financial result. We are a landlord in our own right, which means our expert team of housing and lettings professionals can take on lease arrangements at guaranteed rent, management contracts across properties, and broker traditional affordable housing straight to our member boroughs. Our unique approach means more affordable homes for our members as we cross-subsidise from our surpluses.”

The state of Private Rented Sector (PRS) Accommodation in London: Analysing Trends and Effective Solutions.

The impact of the UK housing crisis is far-reaching, affecting individuals and communities across the nation, notably in London and the Southeast. London, housing almost two-thirds of England’s homeless households, has a homeless population equivalent to towns like Blackburn or Oxford, making it a crisis of national significance. Escalating housing costs, coupled with a scarcity of genuinely affordable homes and unsuitable accommodation, have placed a heavy burden on vulnerable individuals and families.

Adding to these challenges, London’s acute shortage of socially rented homes has led local boroughs to rely on the private rented sector (PRS), which now constitutes 30% of the city’s homes—10% higher than the national average. Yet, within the PRS, which is undergoing significant shifts, questions arise about the present state of supply and its potential impact on tenants.

A joint report by Savills and the London School of Economics titled “Supply of Private Rented Sector Accommodation in London” draws insights from platforms such as Zoopla and Rightmove, along with interviews featuring landlords and industry experts. This comprehensive study indicates a noticeable decline in the number of properties entering the rental market. This emerging trend has sparked discussions and raised concerns, including why landlords are progressively exiting the market, potentially leading to an overall reduction in the availability of rental properties.

Supply of Private Rented Sector Accommodation in London: Key Findings

  • Falling rental listings across all bedroom types, with significant declines in larger properties
  • More rented properties are being listed for sale, potentially impacting demand
  • Asking rents have surged by 20%, and the freeze in Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates affects affordability
  • Tenant turnover has decreased with tenants staying longer in their rented properties due to limited vacant homes and restricted access to homeownership
  • New buy-to-let mortgages have reduced, and indication that more landlords have left the sector
  • Survey data also indicates that landlords are reducing their portfolios, especially in the lower market segments, impacting the most vulnerable tenants
  • Economic factors are increasing landlords’ costs, impacting lower-income households and local authority supply of properties
  • Amid rising costs and policy changes, landlords’ fears of non-payment of rent and property damage affect letting decisions

Supply of Private Rented Sector Accommodation in London: Recommendations

  • Urgent Review and Long-Term Strategy
    Conduct a cross-departmental review to analyse the impact of recent PRS policies and economic factors on supply. Develop a long-term PRS strategy to ensure an adequate supply of quality homes to meet demand.
  • Enhance Purchasing Power
    Increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to align with current market rents. Raise the Housing Benefit rebate for councils accommodating households in leased temporary accommodation. Rebase LHA rates to the 30th percentile of current market rents to enhance affordability.
  • Reduce Competition
    Implement agreements to limit competition between public sector bodies in the procurement of accommodations, preventing price inflation through procurement practices.
  • Incentivise Landlords
    Offer financial incentives for landlords to participate in the lower end of the market. Local authorities could provide financial support for property improvements and long-term lower-priced rentals. Consider national tax reliefs or incentives for landlords catering to the lower market segment.
  • Public Acquisition
    Enable local authorities to acquire properties leaving LHA or temporary accommodation sectors. Provide grants or capital funding for these acquisitions to ensure tenants can continue occupancy and maintain the property’s purpose.
  • Address Landlord Anxiety
    Promote networking channels for landlords to access factual information and insights. Establish a pan-London PRS network to develop joint initiatives and advocate for change. Enhance councils’ enforcement activities to reassure landlords about health and safety regulations.
  • Mitigate Fears
    Collaborate with local authorities and DWP to reduce landlord exposure to rent arrears and poor tenant behaviour. Promote deposit guarantee schemes and insurance products tailored for landlords.
  • Regulatory Costs Analysis
    Understand the impact of regulations on various landlord types. Assess the potential effects of the Renters Reform Bill on PRS supply and balance risk and reward for landlords while maintaining quality expectations.

In conclusion, the PRS fulfils diverse housing needs, often compensating for gaps in the property market. While local authorities and housing initiatives depend on a well-functioning PRS to address immediate housing demands, there’s a push for reduced reliance on this sector in the long term by certain tenant groups and housing charities due to ongoing affordability concerns.

The research findings have prompted recommendations for short-term interventions that could alleviate challenges faced by landlords, tenants, and local authorities, safeguarding access to PRS properties for vulnerable populations. However, it’s acknowledged that these recommendations, while essential, won’t fully tackle the complex factors and structural issues underlying the housing crisis.