Baroness Valentine wades in against landlords letting to benefits tenants!

by Dr Rosalind Beck

15:34 PM, 9th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Baroness Valentine wades in against landlords letting to benefits tenants!

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Baroness Valentine wades in against landlords letting to benefits tenants!

Baroness Valentine, a former banker and the wife of a venture capitalist, is the latest to have a go at private landlords (a common enough diversionary tactic to have a go at an unpopular group when you yourself are amongst the most privileged in society). In a debate on Industrial Strategy she made the following contribution:

Blackpool’s housing is an example of where amending unhelpful national policy could even save the Government money.

Blackpool has at its heart a private sector slum, fueled by public money.

Properties in wards such as Claremont and Revoe are largely privately owned and their occupants are on benefits.

From the landlords’ perspective, there is little incentive to keep the quality up but much incentive to house the maximum number of tenants with guaranteed housing benefit.

As a result, Blackpool attracts, and landlords advertise for, a disproportionate number of people with complex needs from all round the UK. At the crux of the problem is housing benefit paid according to a Whitehall formula which would not reflect the real market rate for such poor-quality housing.

Click Here to read the full comment.

Well, I have news for Baroness Valentine. In many areas of the UK, public money will pretty soon not be ‘fueling’ ‘private sector slums’ as she calls them, as landlords increasingly withdraw from this difficult market.

In her intervention, she makes some extraordinary points. Why, for instance, should she be against landlords housing people with complex needs? I would think the landlords would receive praise for this. I wouldn’t want to do it as the risk of rent arrears and damage to property would be higher. And, as we also all know, landlords cannot just let their properties go unmaintained, as she implies, as councils have significant powers to make sure landlords keep properties up to standard and it is in landlords’ interests to protect their asset and to retain decent tenants. Often, housing will be appear unmaintained, because the tenant is not maintaining it and can even be damaging it! So it is wrong to say landlords are the only people responsible for ill-maintained property.

We also all know that councils are desperate to access private sector housing for the people on their waiting lists, so slagging off the providers of this for daring to charge for the service is outrageous. I received a call just this morning from someone working for a Housing Association who said she has been charged by the Welsh Assembly with identifying and combating barriers to private landlords letting to those on benefits. I explained how Section 24 means landlords have to maximise rents to pay tax on fictitious profit (basically gathering more in rents to hand directly to the Exchequer), and how this and Universal Credit are pushing landlords away from this market. I pointed out how councils also are taxing landlords in the shape of costly licensing schemes, how councils and organisations like Shelter are not too proud to beg landlords to house people but then stick the knife in when those tenants turn rogue. She said that she personally could vouch for some of the people needing accommodation. I forgot to ask her to stand as guarantor! As I said to her, we landlords are asked to take risks, are told that these people will not default, but the ‘caring’ souls who advocate for them will not put their money where their mouth is and under-write this. And yet they are happy to ask us to take those risks.

There is going to be a rude awakening as gradually the likes of the Baroness and the others who slag off landlords for plugging the gap in the housing deficit and housing the poor, see that the number of people in the PRS receiving benefits decreases. The amount councils spend will of course get bigger however as the low-paid and unemployed will have to stay in more expensive hostels, caravans, tents – whatever the councils can come up with as the homelessness problem increases as a direct result of Government interference. Dealing with the knock-on societal consequences – disruption of family life, chaotic lifestyles, interrupted education and damaged life chances, mental health, drug and alcohol problems and so on – will also not come cheap.

So I advise Baroness Valentine and others who on the one hand beg landlords to house people and on the other, slag them off for doing so, to watch what they say as all they are doing is further damaging the chances of the poorer tenants to obtain housing. Landlords who move away from this market will be relieved to no longer be accused of ‘stealing’ tax-payers’ money by housing those in need. And those seeking to prove themselves as the champions of the poor will have to find another target for their vitriol.



Comments

Neil Patterson

15:41 PM, 9th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Hi Ros,

Are not sweeping generalisations and stereotypes of a group or sector of society considered discrimination?

Dr Rosalind Beck

16:36 PM, 9th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Neil Patterson at 09/01/2018 - 15:41
Well, Neil, we all know that private landlords are discriminated against in the media, in politics and so on, but unfortunately we're not a 'protected group' and thus fair game for ignoramuses. Constantly vilifying one occupational group is very demoralising for those on the receiving end and will discourage and disincentivise people to use their own money to bring old housing into use as affordable housing and take the risks that come with letting out property to those in need. The people who make these generalisations are very lazy and need to take stock of the damage they are doing with their ill-conceived interventions.

Jon Sear

10:16 AM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

I do wonder whether we would be better off acknowledging that there are a significant number of landlords out there who are milking the system, and that this needs to be addressed without impacting the majority of landlords who are providing a useful service. In managing the eight flats I let out I've come across some pretty appalling cases of other landlords refusing to do the most basic essential maintenance despite receiving more from the state than they would receive as market rent from a working tenant. Until this problem is addressed people will continue to attack "landlords" as it is all too easy to tar everyone with the same brush.

Annie Landlord

11:39 AM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Blackpool has had significant social problems for many, many years. Once the tourist industry declined it was left with huge numbers of 10, 20, 30 bedroomed former guest houses and hotels that the council has been quite happy to see turned into large scale HMOs. There is little work and a high percentage of people existing on benefits. I agree that there are landlords out there who take the rent and do minimal repairs. I also know that many landlords in Blackpool face a losing battle. I looked at some Blackpool property a while ago, considering whether to move into the HMO market. One property was really run down and while the agent was showing me round I was silently condemning the landlord for leaving the property looking tired and unkempt. Suddenly there was a ruckus above us and two guys, both blind drunk, came careering down the staircase fighting, swearing and lashing out. When they reached the bottom they flung open the front door and continued fighting in the street. On the way down they took out three stair spindles, the newel post, a chunk of wall and the front door handle. These tenants receive no adequate support and the agent said such behaviour was a daily occurrence in several of the HMOs she managed. If Blackpool, and this Baroness, want to do something to improve the lives of Blackpool tenants they could start by providing adequate social care and by buying properties themselves to house people. Oh, wait, councils don't want the responsibility of housing people directly, do they!

Tobias Nightingale

11:53 AM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

The funny thing is landlords cant win either way with some
1) your bad if you refuse to take people on with benefits
2) then your implies to be bad for acceping housing benefit because of the cost to the public purse (these people never complain when its social receiving it and none coming back via tax which if anyone didnt know social receive give or take 2/3rs of it)

Regarding this story while I am not defending 100% the low standards alleged. I can see why some landlords if they are willing to take people on benefits would not want to spend a lot on maintaince as the tenants could easily do masses of damage and as on benefits the landlord will not be able to get compensation (let alone proving who did what with the big hmo's described above). So if this lady wants to fix the issue I suggest she propose landlords who let to people on benefits will be reimbursed 100% by the goverment if they damage things. Sounds fair to me as I think this happens with social landlords.

terry sullivan

11:59 AM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

good news--i will never let to tenants on hb

i suggest others follow suit?

then b v will have solved that problem?

terry sullivan

12:01 PM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

ps valentine ran london first--not mant felt she was any use

but shes political royalty--a faux-tory

terry sullivan

12:04 PM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Annie Landlord at 10/01/2018 - 11:39
its a labor council--enough said

Mick Roberts

13:49 PM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

I've housed HB tenants for 20 years.
I've enjoyed taking em from homeless to their own place.
There's a few of us in Nottm that specialise in HB.

We now are no longer taking HB, as and when houses come empty.
I would like to carry on taking HB, but the Tory attacks on us with Benefit caps and Universal Credit, is making it far too much hard work.
And not enough rent coming in to pay mortgage, well it just doesn't add up, does it.

Monty Bodkin

15:15 PM, 10th January 2018
About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Jon Sear at 10/01/2018 - 10:16
>despite receiving more from the state than they would receive as market rent from a working tenant.

There is a reason for that Jon.
I used to take on housing benefit tenants. I wouldn't even consider taking them on now for less than double the market rent.

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