Housing Benefit Tenants:
Following a covert sampling exercise carried out jointly by Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF), the organisations are claiming that tenants on housing benefit (HB) are being routinely discriminated against.
Shelter researchers claim to have called 149 letting branches around the UK. They say they found that 10% of them (one in every 10 called) operated a policy of a “blanket ban” on any tenant applicants on housing benefit.
Whilst a “no DSS” ban is not technically illegal, according to the previous government department responsible for benefits, Shelter is said to be planning a legal challenge to the practice. They will argue that it breaches the 2010 Equality Act on the basis that it disproportionately affects women and disabled people. This is because, they say, these groups are more likely to be claiming these benefits.
A Shelter spokeswoman has said that the research shows there is a “the wider uphill struggle faced by housing benefit tenants”, claiming that (48%), or just short of half of all the letting agent branches called had said “they had no suitable homes or landlords willing to let to someone on housing benefit.”
By way of explanation the spokeswoman had said:
“We’re not saying that letting agents should just take anyone on, but a lot of people who are on housing benefit have a perfectly clean record, sometimes lasting 10 years or more, and nothing to suggest that they will default on the rent.”
With more and more low income and benefit claiming tenants being force to rent in the private rented sector, as social housing provision has diminished – there are just under four million households (nine million people) currently living in the social rented sector in England, with an official waiting list of 1.15 million households – not all private landlords want to rent to social tenants. See the August 2018 government Green Paper – A new deal for social housing
These landlords have a right to discriminate on affordability grounds and many take into account the fact that they wait 6 weeks or more for an initial payment from the local authority, as opposed to money up-front when letting to a private tenant.
Many UK private landlords reject housing benefit claiming tenants for the simple reason that they a less attractive to them than are private tenants paying the full rent themselves. What further compounds the issue is that many mortgage lenders automatically ban HB tenants.