Citylets Blockchain
From left: Thomas Ashdown, managing director of Citylets, and Rab Campbell of Wallet Services

Citylets sets up blockchain PRS database

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Alice Cruickshank

A Scottish property portal is using blockchain to aid compliance with the latest private rented sector legislation.

Citylets has teamed up with blockchain technology specialists Wallet.Services to offer what is thought to be the first blockchain-enabled private rented sector database. Letting agents in Scotland can now contribute data to and receive analysis of mid tenancy rent changes using this secure technology.

The move by Citylets is in response to new Scottish PRS legislation allows local councils to apply to the Scottish Government to designate all or any part of their local authority area as Rent Pressure Zones, or RPZs, to help regulate rental prices and keep them affordable.

For a local authority to apply for RPZ status requires very detailed, data-led market evidence that rent increases to tenants are excessive.

This has been a motivator for Citylets to adopt blockchain technology. The letting agent has been analysing open market data for over 10 years, with its data services clients including the Scottish Government. As the data sets required for RPZ becomes more complex, this prompted the move to operate to higher degrees of trust and security.

Citylets founder Thomas Ashdown said: “The key here is trust. We are a private company looking to create a ledger of the rent changes experienced by the tenants of Scotland that can be utilised by all stakeholders within the private and public sectors. Ultimately, this will become a resource both for the lettings industry and local councils who have new powers to apply for rent pressure zones but lack the data to underpin applications to the Scottish Government. Blockchain tech was chosen to put the dataset beyond reproach. It is a highly secure, immutable technology.”

Citylets chose Wallet.Services as its technology partner to implement the solution. Based at tech incubator Codebase in Edinburgh, Wallet.Services has utilised its SICCAR product, developed in conjunction with Scottish Government. The data is stored cryptographically allowing a higher degree of security once entered from source by letting agents across Scotland.

Rab Campbell, chairman of Wallet.Services said: “We are delighted to be working with such a progressive company as Citylets. Thomas understands that a new paradigm of trust is emerging in our digital world. This project addresses an issue thrown up by legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. It improves trust and data quality on an important matter that spans the public and private sectors.”

Mike Campbell, director of the Council of Letting Agents said: “I welcome this exciting and important development which addresses the commonly identified problem around the lack of comprehensive and good data on rents in the PRS in Scotland. With the prospect of RPZs on the horizon and the ongoing debate around affordability and role the PRS plays in the housing system as a whole, it’s more important than ever that this happens on an informed and agreed basis.’’

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