If you’re in receipt of benefits and have tried to find a home to rent, the chances are that you’ve probably experienced plenty of barriers. Research suggests that a large proportion of landlords currently refuse to let their property to tenants who are on benefits.
However, new plans by MPs mean this may not be the situation for much longer. The government has announced that it will be investigating any adverts or agencies who refuse to consider tenants who receive benefits, on the grounds of discrimination.
A Growing Problem
With housing coming under increasing pressure in the UK, it’s not always easy to find accommodation in the area that you need. If you’re receiving benefits, the struggle is even greater with thousands of tenants unable to find rental property.
According to research from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government approximately half of all landlords say they would refuse tenants who are on benefits.
Current figures suggest there are approximately 889,000 on benefits currently renting a property, out of a total of 4.5 million in rented accommodation. This leaves many vulnerable individuals without an easy way to move home with new landlords refusing to even consider an application.
The Government Response
Justin Tomlinson, the minister responsible for family support, housing, and maintenance has reiterated the government position, pointing out that Universal Credits allow the money to be paid directly to the landlord. Mr. Tomlinson insisted that ministers would be working with landlords to try and reduce the number of those refusing benefits tenants.
Heather Wheeler, the minister for housing and homelessness also voiced her concern over the current rent crisis. She outlined plans to meet with “key stakeholders” to stamp out the practice of “no DSS” statements by landlords and to try and enact rapid change in the sector.
The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) highlighted current issues within the system with the amount of benefit arrears increasing from £1600 in 2017 to approximately £2400 during 2018 for those in receipt of Universal Credit.
However, the RLA acknowledged that tenants on benefits now make up a significant portion of the market and no landlord should be operating a blanket exclusion policy. The RLA said they would welcome more options on payment of Universal Credit from the government, including landlords receiving money directly.
NatWest has responded by removing its restrictions on buy to let mortgages, announcing that landlords could now rent their property to tenants on benefits. Nationwide Building Society said that it has never imposed these restrictions and urged other lenders to follow suit, pointing out the unfair restrictions in the current private rental sector.
A Work in Progress
Issues such as a freeze on Local Housing Allowance has meant that in many cases benefits are far less than it costs to rent a property but the RLA hope changes can continue to be made. It’s clear that for those in receipt of benefits, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel as all concerned can agree at least that continue to restrict rentals entirely is an unfair and outdated practice.