Landlords rejecting tenants on benefits is not new…

According to Landlords Today, a new report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University says that “One in three private landlords have either made up their minds that they will stop taking housing benefit claimants as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms, or are actively considering it.”

Frankly, that’s a crock.

I’ve been in the rental sector, on disability benefits, since 1986, and whenever I’ve moved, or even considered moving, I’d run up against the same brick wall every time – “No Social” and, even years after its demise, “No DSS,” both terms giving an indication of how long they’d been in use. Even long before I was on benefits, rental property ads often carried such restrictions. It’s a very long way from being new.

It’s a long-established fact that private landlords have always been prejudiced against benefit claimants in a way that had they said “No Blacks”  – popular when I was young – they’d have been in court in very short order. Those of us on benefits gave no protection against bigotry.

It’s an attitude that baffles me. If the rents charged are fair, then Housing Benefit provides a guaranteed income (though with plans afoot to stop paying HB directly to landlords, that will change). It’s only when rents are excessive, leaving the tenant to make up the shortfall out of money they probably don’t have, that it all falls to pieces.

Time was, and as recently as the mid 80s, councils employed Rent Officers – my erstwhile father-in-law was one, which proved useful – who, if a tenant complained about an extortionate rent, would investigate, assess the value of the property based on the average for the area for similar properties and, if it really was too high, set a legally-enforceable fair rent, which would remain in force for the duration of the tenancy, subject to only legitimate increases to cover rising costs etc.

Of course, such a system, providing protection for tenants, was always doomed to failure under a Tory government, and Rent Officers were abolished – hence the totally unfettered rise in rents ever since, and the increasing undesirability of tenants on benefits.

So please, don’t try to present this as a new problem caused by changes in HB, because it’s not. It’s just that those changes have given landlords, and probably more of them than previously,  the opportunity to legitimise a long-standing practice.


3 thoughts on “Landlords rejecting tenants on benefits is not new…

  1. well said Ron.there was also a harassment officer in most council offices where people could go for help when landlords were being really nasty or doing things designed to get them out when they had no reason to evict them legally. but sadly they too are a thing of the past from what i can gather. just rang our local council about it as i was intrigued and after 3 calls & 3 departments im told yu now have to go through the housing advice team/ didnt do anymore as havent time to be sat here being shoved from pillar to does however show how difficult it is to get the help should the need arise.

  2. Ron while I agree entirely with your post, there is one factor which you have not mentioned. Before I had to stop working following my Sarcoid and accompanying medical dictionary full of illnesses I worked for a company which among other things had some 60 properties for rent. Initially we welcomed benefits claimants, on the understanding that it was guaranteed rental income, and there were no collection problems. Then 3 of our tennants were found to be working while claiming Benefits. The courts decided that all benefits paid to them had to be repaid, a total of more than £32k for more than 3 years rent on the 3 houses all together. This we had to refund to the council as it had been paid to us, and then we were given the opportunity to take the tenants to court to get the money back from them. One had been single and was in jail, so no chance of getting anything back from him, the other two were married with kids. With Hubby in jail no chance of cash from him and wife and kids had no income so nothing from them. We then went to court to evict the families, (so that the council would re house them) making us the Big Bad Nasty Landlords, wanting to evict “single mums”. Not only did we loose the money, a huge blow to the company, but we ended up with the families living without paying rent for 18 months and 2 years respectively, as quite rightly, no court would evict a family for non payment of rent. If I remember correctly we got a court order for one of the husbands to pay what he owed, over 10K at a rate of £2.50 a month!
    All in all, with lost rental, legal costs and the amount we had to refund to the council we lost almost 60k! Seen in that light it is easy to see why a landlord might be unwilling to take on “DSS” tenants! If the rule about the landlord having to refund all benefit “overpayments” were to be changed and the responsibility of who pays it back in those circumstances moved from the landlord to the person who was committing the fraud things would look very different. I was lucky, my current landlord is my former employer and I was able to offer a deposit which is in a trust account accruing interest. The problem is simple, the few (the benefit cheats) are once more f*ck*ng it up for the rest of us!
    Hugosmum, I live in the Arun district council area and I know for a fact, one call to them and they are on the case right away in the sort of cases formally dealt with by harassment officers. It’s the same old “Post Code Lottery”.

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