A London borough has launched the UK’s first municipal-owned online-only lettings agency which tenants and landlords will deal with via a website and app.
Called Bumblebee Property it was officially unveiled earlier this week to great fanfare by The Barnet Group, a local authority trading company wholly owned by Barnet Council.
It says any profits from Bumblebee will be reinvested in The Barnet Group’s other services.
These include managing the council’s social housing stock, homelessness programmes and social care provision.
The Barnet Group is an ALMO, or Arm’s Length Management Organisation, the name given to in-house companies that provide outsourced services on behalf of a local council.
But although Bumblebee may sound like it’s part of a benign council organisation, the venture is designed to be a commercial venture like any other online letting agent.
Although some of its customers may be council tenants, it is to compete for private landlords and renters for properties and tenancies both in Barnet and in other areas of North London.
Tenant fees ban
It has also already jumped the gun on the tenant fees ban and is only charging tenants a £350 refundable holding fee, although if tenants sign up to a tenancy, the fee will then be used to contribute towards’ s the first month’s rent and the deposit.
“Today marks a huge landmark for The Barnet Group, says Derek Rust, its Group Director of Growth and Development.
“Bumblebee’s clear, upfront fee structure sets us apart from the competition and gives landlords and tenants complete peace of mind” he continued.
“Our new estate agent will deliver the high levels of customer service and commitment to quality that is expected from the Group.”