A not-for-profit student agency in Newcastle was set up to “reset the balance between landlords and tenants”, after years of substandard service in the city.
NU:LETS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Northumbria Students' Union, was established in response to “the rotten deal students were getting in the city at the time,” says its Lettings Manager Andrew Hartley. The Students' Union surveyed students to find out what new service they most wanted to see provided by the Union, and a letting agency came out on top. “They were being ripped off with fees, there were poor landlords, bad managing agents - everything people complain about when it comes to renting property."
In contrast, NU:LETS provides its student tenants with “quality property that’s been checked out, decent landlords who have been checked out, and a good service.” The agency was the first in the city not to charge fees, saving students more than £300,000 in administration fees well before they were banned in 2019, with many other agencies in the city soon following suit.
The agency’s landlords, too, have been impressed, which is demonstrated by NU:LETS small but growing portfolio, he says. “They've got happy tenants, they've got an agent who tries to do the right thing consistently and for whom money isn't the be all and end all. Everybody we've taken on as a landlord, has stayed with us.”
NU:LETS own portfolio is boosted by 'white-labelled properties' from other agencies in the area, providing students with a wider range of accommodation, while helping other agencies to reach a captive audience of 30,000 students and let their landlords' properties faster than they could on their own. “That side of the business has grown and grown and grown and a huge amount of it is from word of mouth,” says Hartley.
“I think property management is about doing the right thing, managing people, and managing expectations, and I'm hoping that some of the stuff that we've done has rubbed off on other people and that we've been a positive influence in the city,” he says. “I think if we can have a more balanced relationship between the landlords and the tenants, then everybody's getting a better deal.”