My email to Woman’s Hour regarding Shelter response to no DSS

by Chris @ Possession Friend

9:29 AM, 22nd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

My email to Woman’s Hour regarding Shelter response to no DSS

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My email to Woman’s Hour regarding Shelter response to no DSS

I have recently sent my email below responding to Shelter’s Polly Neate’s response as to why she thought landlords do not want to rent to tenants in receipt of benefits.

To: womanshour.yourviews@bbc.co.uk

Re –  Click here to download the programme

I am the Director of a Possession company for landlords seeking to evict bad tenants. www.PossessionFriend.uk

I listened to the response by Shelter – Polly Neate about why (she thought! –  and she’s not a Landlord) Landlords didn’t want to rent to people in receipt of benefits.

There are a number of reasons why many landlords have actively diverted away from considering tenants in receipt of benefit, and its NOTHING to do with ‘stigma.’

Shelter published research (that they selectively use to suit their purposes) that is LHA rates do not pay the market rent of 90% of rental property.

This will be due in a large part to the rate freeze that the government imposed on Housing benefit rates in 2016, something that was only recently relaxed, however that has not allowed the overwhelming number of rented properties to ‘suddenly become affordable’

The point the programme host made about direct payment to landlords being deliberately removed under Universal Credit plays a massively important role,  and not a ‘slight factor’ that Shelter under-played. Even where a tenant in receipt of benefit has had a period of not passing the housing element (benefit) of their UC onto the landlord, it’s the DWP’s instruction – ethos to revert to payment to the  claimant as  soon as possible, in many cases within 3 months (I have been told this directly by UC staff)

If payments have been going direct to a landlord, and U/C discovers that the claimant was for a period not entitled to state benefit (perhaps working whilst not disclosing – something the landlord would be unaware of)  UC will immediately demand repayment by the landlord. This could be for a year or more’s benefit rental payments.

Withholding state-funded housing element of benefit from the landlord, which is the purpose tax-payers money was allocated to the claimant, should be made a criminal offence of Fraud. (Just as its Fraud to rent out an allocated Council house for rent whilst living elsewhere).  Defraud the Local or Central government of money and it’s a criminal offence. When it’s a private individual, they have to take their ‘very poor’ chances with the Civil Justice [sic] system.

Civil law procedures of reclaiming a debt (rental payments owed are notoriously ineffective, more so for defaulters who have little or no assets that could be seized by bailiff’s or High Court Enforcement Officers. The majority of Tenants in receipt of benefit are likely to fall into this category.

A far higher proportion of tenants in receipt of Housing (or UC) benefit will be applying for rental property and won’t have a Guarantor.  Neither Shelter nor Local Authorities are keen to advance their funds to guarantee the payment – damage liabilities of the would-be tenants that they expect private landlords to take a ‘risk on’

‘Jane’ was such an atypical benefit tenant that its taken Shelter since 2013 to find someone in receipt of benefits, that’s got a 10 year full rent payment record, (or, so we’re told)  home-owning guarantor and rent in advance!

Would Shelter be ‘happy – content’ for letting Agents and landlords to advertise;

“Tenants in receipt of benefit, with a 10 year rent payment and landlord reference, Home-owning guarantor and advance rent, –  may apply.” Is the absurdity of their case becoming apparent?

The programme highlighted that many Insurance companies will either not cover benefit tenants, or else will charge a higher premium, ask yourself WHY?   The answer of Shelter is that premiums would either be none or a little extra cost, – who exactly do you think is going to pay the higher insurance premium?  As the Tenant Fee ban has made any such charge unlawful. The government has ‘straight-jacketed’ the Private rental sector into its current modus operandi with almost every piece of regulation passed over the last 10 years but increasingly so since 2015.  Many ‘drivers’ behind government policy have been campaigned by Tenant support groups. Tenants facing higher rents since the Tenant Fee Ban, and many other difficulties in housing have to a large part, tenant groups to blame. Another example of the TFB, limiting deposits to 5 weeks, making it not viable to take a risk on tenants with pets, as an increased deposit cannot be taken. There are many other examples.

The so-called faux housing charity, Shelter are nothing of the sort, they don’t provide food or ‘Shelter’ to anyone, and will readily admit as such.  They receive a third of their Annual budget (£20 Million) of tax-payers money from the government to provide housing advice, and take litigation in defence, often of recalcitrant tenants.

In terms of a closing remark of tenants in receipt of benefit ‘demanding’ to view a rental property, an important word needs to be remembered, the PRIVATE rented Sector is called private for a reason. It comprises a large number of single-property owners, many of which may be Blue-collar, key workers owning a family inherited property chosen to be rented out to supplement their low income and to provide a pension safety net.  Such people cannot afford to sustain a years worth of rent claimed back in the form of benefit or UC. Neither can they afford to wait for the best part of a year it takes to evict a rent-defaulting or otherwise bad tenant. Tenants who can’t for a number of reasons often of their own making find rental accommodation in the private sector are the responsibility of the state – i.e. Council or Social  Housing (not the PRS).

The Private rented sector is by the vast majority working very well with a small number of tenants choosing to ‘play the system’ Such tenants will usually cost a landlord up to and many times more than £10,000 and tend to be repeat ‘offender tenants’

Shelter would do well to know the pragmatics of the private rented sector before criticising,  as standing up for the minority is actually disadvantaging the majority.

If you would like to discuss the content of this email or have me as a guest on a programme concerning rented property, please contact me.

Chris

Possession Friend



Comments

Michael Bond

15:07 PM, 22nd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Great letter! Shelter is an anti-landlord pressure group masquerading as a housing charity. If we say this loud and often perhaps our Government will eventually notice. I sometimes wonder whether the behaviour of Shelter in accepting taxpayers' money (our money) and the donations of kindly folk on the basis that it is actually doing something about homelessness is close to fraud.
As Shelter would never point out and the BBC would never ask, the average length of an AST is about 4 years, about 80% of ASTs are ended by the tenants, and the great majority (about 70%?) of PRS tenants are happy with their accommodation and their landlords.

Alan Wong

15:12 PM, 22nd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Several other reasons why landlords are hesitating to rent to families on UC are:
1. No communication channels from the UC office and almost zero response when we do contact them to discuss or address updates. That is even when there is consent to share information from the tenant. The UC office ignores/disrespect such consent.
2. As a result of point 1 above, most things are not transparent almost impossible to work long term and especially the last payment of UC housing costs are typically not paid to the landlord especially when it is set up through APA (direct payment to landlord). That is when the tenant for that last payment assessment period was factually still resident at the landlords property. The UC office does not want to know. Another word frankly the current set up is to financially abuse landlords.
3. No email, letters or phone facilities. All those facilities are opened for housing association only. When a private landlord email, phone or write to the UC office, you guessed it, no response or will not discuss despite consent is in place.
How can any matters be resolved when there is no will from the UC office to work alongside each other?

Ian Narbeth

15:24 PM, 22nd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Well put Chris.
We use Spareroom for our HMOs. At present you have to state whether you accept people on benefits or not. In light of the recent case it is a bold landlord who says they will not. As a result, everyone now thinks that being on benefits is no bar to renting. Sorry, but it is. As Chris points out the test case Shelter ran was exceptional. If the tenant relies entirely on benefits or is on housing benefit (which can be clawed back) landlords can still reasonably refuse.
Landlords need to tread carefully at the moment and should not have a blanket policy. We are getting enquiries every day: "Do you take people on benefits?" I fear there will be a lot of time wasted.

Beaver

17:15 PM, 22nd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Michael Bond at 22/07/2020 - 15:07
Certainly, I think if the government ignored Shelter and only took the advice of people who actually had the job of managing and housing tenants they would have more credibility and receive better advice.

Why does Shelter have to exist at all? We have the CAB, we have a benefits system, we have charities who do actually put a roof over the heads of the homeless. Surely the government should be listening to them instead.

Ronald Crane

8:18 AM, 23rd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Shelter and the local councils Housing depts , by thier own admission, tell Housing tenants facing eviction, to DEFY the Court Order with its date to vacate, and to " stay put" until the Bailiffs arrive. This is "Contempt of Court" in my estimation!
Its a smack in the eye for the landlord who is trying to get possession of his property in a legitimate manner.
THIS is one big reason that landlords don,t want to entertain folk on Housing benefits with their "stay put-dont move" advice to tenants, with Shelter bending back-wards to block a landlords possession attempt.
What landlord in his right mind would want to enter this arena?!
Housing Depts and Shelter seem to forget that landlords have a choice!
With their "anti landlord" mentality they have "shot themselves in the foot" and are alienateing Housing tenants from landlords offering accommodation to let

Chris @ Possession Friend

12:36 PM, 23rd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

A response !

On 23/07/2020 09:01, Louise Corley wrote:
> Dear Chris,
>
> Thank you for your email.
> In our item we were highlighting the landmark case won by 'Jane' and put the points your raise - direct payment, insurance, mortgages, to Polly Neate.
> I do appreciate you writing in more detail about this and will certainly keep your contacts on file for possible future use in an item on this subject.
>
> With best wishes,
> Louise
>
> Louise Corley
> Producer
> Woman's Hour
> BBC Radio 4.

My reply ;
Thank you for your reply Louise,

I'm not sure the case was such a victory that Shelter claimed and of course without a knowledgeable response from a Landlord or Letting professional, the discussion was a little 'one-sided' ( I would say rather than biased, no disrespect to the presenter intended )

The case was of such an unusual Tenant applicant in receipt of benefit ( 10 years worth of reference, Guarantor, Rent in advance etc, or so we're told ) as I stated.

The letting agent didn't contest the case, just stated they had changed their policy and apologised.

What was telling, but didn't come out in your programme, was that the letting Agent offered a sum of compensation, which 'Jane' said she declined 'out of principle' !

I don't think a tenant working part-time on benefit is in a position to decline that kind of financial offer and its my suggestion that Shelter, perhaps aided by the funding from the Nationwide Foundation, replaced that compensation offer in cash to the tenant, just so that a case could be heard before the court. I have no proof of this, but you have to agree, if you give it some thought, that my suspicion sounds more than logical.

Because the Letting Agent didn't contest the case, we have no idea what the defence of 'proportionate means to achieve legitimate aim' to discrimination would have fared in court.

Also the only representation before the court was a Specialist Discrimination barrister from Garden Chambers, although as I've said, she had absolutely no opposition. Not a fair contest, so very false to claim victory.

Regards,

Chris

SteveG

20:25 PM, 23rd July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Very well put together letter which I feel sums up most landlords sentiments. Our last Housing Benefit tenant cost us £6600 in rent arrears and court fees. The cost spent to put right the damage to the property was £15k. We are blue collar workers. Does Shelter really think we are in a rush to let to another tenant receiving any kind of benefits ?

Beaver

9:03 AM, 24th July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by SteveG at 23/07/2020 - 20:25
I'm self-employed. I'm not in a rush to take on housing benefit tenants either. I rent through an agent and it is unlikely that the agent would even put them forward telling me that they could afford the property.

The last time I had a tenant on benefits I insisted she pay me directly.

Ian Narbeth

10:29 AM, 24th July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

SteveG, please write to your MP and to the Housing Minister (whoever he or she is for the next 10 minutes!) and tell your story. MPs need to hear from landlords like you who experience being involuntary creditors and have to endure months of delay with our broken court system. £21,600 in the hole. I feel for you.
Do be wary now of prospective tenants who contact you and say as their opening shot: "Do you take people on benefits?" If you simply say No, you could find them reporting you to the Council or the police. I am not saying a case against you would succeed but do you want to have the Council finding a dozen minor things wrong with your property and requiring you to fix them? I am afraid that in Britain 2020 your horrendous experience is considered trivial compared to the upset caused to an impecunious person not being able to rent a property..

JamesB

8:48 AM, 25th July 2020
About 2 weeks ago

Nailed it

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