A residential property management company is offering its residents leases only they can break through its build-to-rent platform.
“We will never break the contract - we’ll let them stay as long as they want,” says Michael Howard, the founder and managing director of Manchester-based urbanbubble, which manages more than 9,000 homes across Manchester, Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Bath and Bristol.
Described as “a family-friendly lease”, after an initial six-month period, the agreement becomes resident break only. “If they want to cancel their contract they can, they just have to give us two months’ notice,” says Howard.
urbanbubble also commits to "cap and collar" rent reviews through its blue-chip clients Legal & General (L&G) and DTZ, ensuring rent increases will be never more than five per cent in the agreement, which means residents have the security of knowing what their rent will be a few years down the track.
Howard believes renters want the security of long-term tenure but are often pushed out of properties by letting agencies which make more money by putting new tenants into a property each year than they would by simply renewing a lease. “It’s a fantastic step forward for the renter and it’s what the institutions can and are doing, but anyone can do it, which is why it’s being advocated by the government,” he says.
Renters are choosing to take up urbanbubble’s long-term option because of the sense of community they’re actively building at each of their locations. “When all you have is a lift lobby and a rubbish room, you can’t create a community, because all you’ve got is your apartment, you've got no way to do anything. However, our clients are delivering residential schemes with outdoor space, resident and club lounges, cinema rooms, co-working areas and gym spaces . We can then facilitate events so people meet other people. We engage and listen to our residents to foster and facilitate the building of a long-term community,” says Howard.
Three-quarters of urbanbubble residents are between the ages of 25 and 35, and Michael believes that “residents want to be around other residents who with shared interests, values and even beliefs – it’s the very definition of community”.
“Our key target demographic is moving around the UK on their own for jobs and arrive in a new city not knowing anyone or perhaps a handful of friends they studied or previously worked with,” he says. “Build-to-rent schemes allow them to have a new bunch of friends within weeks, if not days. Build-to-rent offers a whole window of opportunity for young people. People like community, they feel safe, they feel secure, they’ll stay, they’ll make friends. It’s important for them to have that sense of community.”
Howard says build-to-rent schemes have shaken up the private rented sector by prioritising renters desire for community. “Until build-to-rent came along, there was no innovation in the private rented sector. Developers built and then just left, letting agents put people into apartments but they didn't really care about on-going service, and landlords were not generally interested in their residents’ well-being or regard for their rental experience - they didn’t really care about customers feedback about the lifestyle in their apartment,” says Howard.
“Build-to-rent schemes changed that landscape and you can either catch up and cotton on, or you can offer a lower class of service and a lower class of quality. They’ve finally put the customer - the renter - at the centre. It’s been a long time coming.”