On Wednesday 3rd November, BBC Spotlight, the regional news for the South-West of England, broadcast an article concerning NHS staff in Cornwall and how hard it was for them to find affordable accommodation to rent.
As a socially responsible lettings agency, this was something we felt we needed to get involved with. We discussed various ideas and settled on a quid pro quo scenario where landlords would let us offer their properties at a reduced rate to NHS staff and, in return, we would discount our management fees by 25% for the first twelve months, with a review thereafter.
On Friday 5th November, we launched our campaign with the help of The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT). Our social media output soon grabbed the attention of BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Spotlight. Our Property Manager, Phil Norgan, was interviewed by James Churchfield on BBC Radio Cornwall and by Andrea Ormsby from BBC Spotlight. The media focus did not end there as there is an interview with Pirate FM in the pipeline.
Coupled with our continued social media content, the BBC articles and our direct contact with other sources we have seen a fantastic start to the campaign with new and existing landlords coming forward with their offer of properties that they want to let to NHS staff. The RCHT has a closed Facebook page which allows NHS staff to see properties before they are listed with property portals and when we send them a property, it will be solely with them for a minimum of 48 hours before we list them on the portals.
Looking further afield, we have been contacted by a nurse working at Torbay Hospital in Devon and like-minded agents in other parts of the country who know they have a similar problem with NHS staff being unable to find suitable, affordable accommodation.
This is a problem that will not go away quickly. It’s been rumbling for sometime and, like a volcano, it will erupt soon. We know that NHS staff are not the best paid and that, in some cases, passing the affordability test with a referencing agency will not be easy, but there are ways to make it happen, we just have to be creative in our thinking, without jeopardising the landlords interest.
Imagine you are, unfortunately, admitted to hospital. Would you rather have someone who has secure, warm accommodation to go to looking after you, or would you settle for someone who is thinking “where will I sleep tonight?” That’s the conundrum. How can an NHS worker knowingly do their job to the absolute best of their ability if they are constantly worried as to where they will be sleeping that night, or the night after? As an industry, estate agents need to work together putting aside their differences and help NHS workers find affordable accommodation. This will not go away.
As a lettings agency, we have no direct involvement in residential sales, so we contacted a number of estate agents who only do sales to see if they could help. Did they have any empty properties that they knew, “hand on heart”, were not going to sell before Spring 2022 where the client would consider letting it for the winter? Could they go back through their archived properties to see if they had similar clients/properties? How about holiday homes? To date, only 2 agencies have come forward and offered to help. We have had the odd one, or two, who have called to “congratulate” us on a clever idea. These agents, unfortunately, still live the dark ages.
We are appealing to forward-thinking estate agents who understand the benefits of co-operation.
Finally, and we would urge you to give this some serious thought, when was the last time you, or a loved one, was admitted to hospital? How good was the care? Were you grateful that the staff did their job, professionally and without question? Now ask yourself, what can I do to help them?