Landlord’s Ethical Return on Investment

by Scott Douglas

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Most investors can rarely see beyond the rental yields and capital gains from their property.

But buy-to-let landlord Jaci (corr spell) Moriarty knows her Edinburgh property brings more than a guaranteed income every month – it puts a vital roof over a family or individual in housing need.

Jaci is one of an increasing number of investors who has taken advantage of an innovative public-private partnership scheme – at the same time as knowing she is making a contribution to improve the lives of others.

Referred to as Private Sector Leasing (PSL), the scheme looks to find and manage private rented homes – from one to four bedrooms – on long-term leases of three to five years. The properties are used by local authorities to provide quality accommodation to people who may have lost their homes through, for example, relationship breakdown or unemployment, instead of looking at temporary housing options such as expensive B&B’s.

Orchard and Shipman plc was contracted by The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to manage the first PSL scheme in Scotland in September 2005 – with the firm tasked to find 1,500 properties by 2010. It has proved to be an overwhelming success – already becoming the largest scheme in the UK – with some 1,200 properties signed up some two years ahead of schedule. 

The scheme has now been extended into Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders – providing new scope for potential investors.

Under PSL, landlords enjoy the security of guaranteed long-term income, rents paid in advance with no voids and no agent’s fees – and the return of the property in good condition. 

Landlords and investors have been quick to see the potential of PSL and the fact that property prices in the Scottish Capital benefit from Edinburgh’s ever-growing market – which has showed a 63% growth in the last five years – only adds to the appeal.

Jaci Moriarty, 41, bought her two-bedroom flat in Edinburgh’s Easter Road three and a half years ago and had privately rented it out. But 18 months ago, she decided to sign up to the Orchard & Shipman PSL scheme.

Mother-of-three Jaci, a Bank of Scotland Business Development Manager, said: “I liked the idea of my investment being put to good use. While it is good to know that my property is gaining in capital terms, there’s a feel-good factor in knowing that your investment has solid ethical benefits.
“People find themselves homeless for all manner of reasons, it’s not just what people stereotypically view as homeless. I know it’s pot luck who you get living in your flat, even on the private market, but we can say that we’ve have had no problems whatsoever.”

Angela McLachlan, Director of Operations, Scotland at Orchard and Shipman, said: “To have signed up more than 1,200 properties way ahead of schedule is a great indicator of the success of the PSL scheme – and a clear endorsement of how property investors feel about it.

“PSL works because it benefits all parties, the Council who face huge demand to provide housing, the families desperate for accommodation in areas that they want to live in, and the landlords who see the benefits of long-term income for their investments.

“But there is another key benefit, and one that is becoming increasingly relevant for landlords – that your investment is doing good.”

Angela added: “PSL continues to be a sensible investment opportunity, particularly for those investors who may have been put off by buy-to-let of late. In addition, the expansion into the three new areas, where property prices are lower than Edinburgh, offers attractive opportunities to new investors. But equally these landlords can also feel very happy that they are giving people in real housing need a new opportunity- not just a roof over their heads.”

Orchard & Shipman is now looking forward to reaching its Edinburgh target while beginning the process of finding new landlords for its new PSL contracts with Mid/East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils.

Angela said: “The shortage of housing is a problem in most areas across the UK and this problem will not disappear overnight. Edinburgh and now Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders Councils are looking at different ways to address this important social issue to help them achieve Scottish Parliament targets to give every homeless person the right to a home by 2012.                                                         
“We believe PSL has an important part to play to help Councils achieve this objective.”

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