Meet the agency matching disabled people with rental homes
13 Jan 2020 12:06 PM
Many landlords and letting agents go above and beyond when it comes to their tenants and their communities.
Sallie Stone-Bearne is the founder of Branch Properties, which specialises in finding accommodation for disabled people in the private rented sector.
In this piece first published in Residential Property Investor magazine, Sally Walmsley meets her.
Sallie Stone-Bearne is the founder of Branch Properties. She set up the agency after struggling to help her father – who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – find somewhere to live. She said: “My father has MS and as his condition deteriorated it was clear he was struggling at home as the door was far too heavy and the corridors were too narrow. However when it came to finding somewhere for him to live, there was next to nothing out there.
“Going to agents with any requirements was a problem, you would turn up at supposedly accessible properties and there were doorsteps, for example.
“I set up Branch in 2014 specifically to find accommodation for people with disabilities.
“We work with landlords who have ground floor properties to make them accessible so they can be rented out. However, we need to get more landlords on board. All the properties on the books are taken long term.
The search element is the biggest part of the job. If we haven’t got anything on our books then we will find a suitable properties, looking all over London”.
Sallie says the first thing the agency looks at is accessibility through the front door, the next thing is the bathroom.
“We will then work on the tenants behalf during the negotiations and can also organise any adaptation.
Benefits of offering an accessible home
“There are lots of benefits to offering an accessible home. Firstly, wheelchair users are likely to be long term tenants, with the minimum amount of time they would stay in a property around three years.
“Adaptations of this kind can also be useful for other demographics – the elderly, or mums with pushchairs.
“DFG grants are available for adaptations, although landlords don’t always want work done to their homes or know what grants are available to them.
“We have people on waiting lists so if a landlord has a home available, we can promote that to our clients, for example we have a professional couple on our books that have been looking for a two-bed-roomed ground floor property for the last six months. There are also lots of children with disabilities that need adapted properties.
We have a 100% success rate and have matched hundreds of people with homes. We think there’s a real need to build more accessible homes and hope more developers adhere to the regulations they should. We also now take on clients outside of London, to help with their accessible property search.
“I do understand that landlords see downsides to providing accessible homes. They fear void period, it can be expensive. However these days there are fantastic designs which complement the space in a stylish way. They don’t need to cost the earth and their likelihood is landlords offering adapted properties will have great tenants for a long period of time”.