Shelter shocked at result of 10%, no make that 4.7% or maybe zero

by Appalled Landlord

8:48 AM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Shelter shocked at result of 10%, no make that 4.7% or maybe zero

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Shelter shocked at result of 10%, no make that 4.7% or maybe zero

Last week Shelter published the results of their mystery shopper exercise, in partnership with  National Housing Federation (NHF).  The latter is in the social sector so it is a mystery in itself why they are involved, except that by attacking the PRS they can deflect attention away from the defects in their own sector, examples of which I am sure P118 readers could provide.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, made a ludicrous comparison with the racial discrimination of 60 years ago, in an attempt to denigrate the PRS.

The press release was called ‘No DSS’: Five leading letting agents risk breaking discrimination law”: Click Here

It starts:  Five of England’s leading letting agents actively discriminate against tenants on housing benefit, according to a new report by Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF)

In an undercover investigation carried out by Mystery Shoppers Ltd. 149 regional letting agent branches were called by researchers posing as prospective tenants. A shocking one in ten had a branch policy not to let to anyone on housing benefit, regardless of whether they could afford the rent.

The worst offender out of the six big brands investigated was Haart, with an outright ban on housing benefit tenants in a third of the branches called (8 out of 25). The only letting agent not to have any bans in place, was Hunters (0 out of 25).

The research also exposes the wider uphill struggle faced by housing benefit tenants. Almost half (48%) of branches called said they had no suitable homes or landlords willing to let to someone on housing benefit.

Appalled by the findings, the two housing organisations have joined forces to urge letting agents and landlords to remove these bans, which they argue are both grossly unfair and likely to be unlawful.

The failure of successive governments to build enough social housing means that there are an estimated 1.64 million adults who now rely on housing benefit to help with expensive private rents. The majority are women – especially single mothers with childcare responsibilities. People who receive disability benefits are also three times more likely to need a housing benefit top-up.

Consequently, under the Equality Act 2010, letting agents who reject housing benefit tenants outright could be at risk of breaking the law because of indirect discrimination against women and disabled people.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This ugly undercurrent of discrimination is wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. ‘No DSS’ is an outdated and outrageous example of blatant prejudice.

“Private renting is now so expensive that many people simply can’t get by without some housing benefit, even if they’re working. At Shelter we hear from families – who’ve always paid their rent – being pushed to breaking point after having the door repeatedly slammed shut on them just because they need housing benefit.

“Rejecting all housing benefit tenants is morally bankrupt, and because these practices overwhelmingly impact women and disabled people, they could be unlawful. That’s why we’re urging all landlords and letting agents to get rid of housing benefit bans, and treat people fairly on a case by case basis.”

Hang on a minute.  When did Shelter become a housing organisation?  How many beds does it provide exactly?  Answers: Never, and none.

Only someone prejudiced, and with a propensity to hyperbole, could describe the tiny minority of 10% as shocking.   It means 90% of the branches did not have a ban.

This shows how wrong the first line of the press release was.  It suggests that the agents had company-wide discrimination policies, although the survey itself told Shelter that this was not true.  Who was responsible for giving such a wrong impression?

The first line should have read “The overwhelming majority of 149 branches of five of England’s leading letting agents do not actively discriminate against tenants on housing benefit”.

Was nobody numerate involved?  Amusingly, the total sample of 149 is shown as 149% of itself!

56 branches said they had no ban, but had no properties currently available to HB tenants.  It seems to me a fine distinction between having a ban and not having a ban if there are no properties available to HB tenants. Is it a ban or is it a dearth?

In the other 78 cases, the answer was not clear enough to fit into the above categories. That is more than half of the sample. How much did the survey cost, I wonder. Shelter should ask for its money back.

However, the next day Haart corrected them.  A spokesperson for Haart said: “It is not our policy to refuse housing benefit tenants – anyone who passes referencing checks is able to rent properties listed with our branches.

“We do regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and currently have 112 tenancies where this is the case.

“This research has brought to light that some of our branches are misinformed and we are working to ensure that this policy is being followed across our network.

“We are sorry for any occasion where this has not been the case.” Click Here to view Property Industry Eye article.

That brings the total down from fifteen to seven, or 4.7%.  And it begs the question as to why four other chains would have one, or two, branches out of step with the other 23 or 24 branches in their chains.  Maybe it was a number of terrible misunderstandings between strangers on the phone.

In the same article, two people who do know something about the PRS explained the facts to Shelter:

Isobel Thomson, CEO of the National Approved Letting Scheme, rebutted their claim forcefully:

“The majority of lettings and management agents are professionals who are skilled at managing housing benefit and universal credit tenancies, dealing with applicants on a case by case basis.

“Many agents help prospective and existing tenants obtain access to the benefits they are entitled to.

“An assumption that there is widespread discrimination, particularly of women and disabled people on benefits, is emotive conjecture and fails to paint an accurate picture of the sector.

“In some areas tenants on benefits form agents’ client base.

“Vilification of letting agents and landlords will not resolve housing problems where the provision of sufficient social housing is at the heart of the matter.

“The complexity of the benefits system and delays in payment add to the difficulties.

“Shouldn’t we be working together to come up with solutions which could solve the ills of the sector to ensure that no vulnerable tenants are left behind, rather than castigating one section of it?”

David Smith, RLA policy director, said:

“The benefits system makes it inherently challenging for claimants to pay their rent in full and on time as it pays in arrears, compared to rents which are paid in advance.

“Our most recent member survey shows a huge increase in the number of landlords experiencing tenants on Universal Credit going into arrears, rising from 27% in 2016 to 61% now.

“At a time of huge demand for private rented housing, it is not surprising that landlords would rather choose a tenant who can pay the rent when it is due.” Click Here to view Property Industry Eye article

Well said both.  Do you get it, Polly?  I know you have only been CEO for 12 months, and have got a lot to learn, but this is common knowledge in the industry.  You can catch up quickly Click Here

However, your paid-for intervention will ensure that no agent will have a ban on HB claimants in future.  Well done!  But will it provide one more property for HB tenants that wasn’t there before?

The press release was such obvious dross that the only newspaper to carry it was the Mirror.  Its article had the amusing sub-heading “The rules apply even if they CAN afford to pay the rent” – as if that was a bonus rather than a basic requirement. Click Here

Beneath the article was a comment from Paul 0040:

“David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation needs to look closer to home. Most housing associations have financial assessments and when they discover you are on benefits its normally downhill from there.”

Even the Guardian did not publish an article about the survey, and that paper usually repeats any old anti-PRS tat.  That must have been galling, Polly, after all that sloppy work, all that money, and all your hyperbole.



Monty Bodkin

11:55 AM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Whiteskifreak Surrey at 29/08/2018 - 10:28
"This practice has been named as indirect discrimination by the Equality and Human Rights Commission."

Is quite different from what the EHRC seems to actually have said;

"We will consider this evidence in deciding whether there is action we can take."

Mick Roberts

13:03 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

I apologise for putting this on again for those that's read it & if site owners Neil & Mark, say don't put same thing on any more, I won't, but this post thread highlights it again & if someone JUST ONE DAY from Shelter with common sense or the Govt reads it & takes action, then it might be worth it.
As I've messaged Shelter the same who said they would get back to me & they haven't.

When will these people EVER COME TALK TO US?

I'm one of the biggest Housing Benefits HB Landlords in the UK Shelter if you are listening.
I have loved HB for years, the people are normal. I, don't laugh at this, used to refuse working people ha ha.
I now after 20 years don't want HB. Why not? Come ask me newspapers as long as I han't got to have me photo taken. Come ask em Radio stations?

I don't take HB any more-Come take me to court, because the Govt & Councils change the rules when we've already got the tenants in.
I've only ever took 4 or 5 tenants to court for eviction. And the reason is? They've lived there 5 10 years & then all of a sudden, the Govt gave them the Benefit Cap. No one could foresee this 7 or so years ago.
But you Mr Govt dimwits, didn't cap them directly, you took the money out their HB to landlords. So tenants didn't get capped, so what did they learn? Nothing. We the Landlord lost the money, you STOPPED paying their rent because these 4 kids they've had for years, you now decide they've had too many.
You din't do it on new babies, so they had warning, nor did you did it before they moved in the house & said If you move in there, we not paying the rent. YOU DID IT WHEN THEY WAS ALREADY LIVING THERE FOR YEARS!!!!!

That's why Shelter, some of us don't take HB any more.

The Govt also approx 2012 stopped paying the normal 1 bed £90pw for anyone under 35. It used to be 25. So the 27 year old living in the house no longer could afford the rent, you'd only pay £69 for him. Where's he getting the £21 extra from, u imbeciles?
Why did the Govt do this? 'Cause it saved approx £225 mil they say. Stop all HB then. Let's make everyone homeless.

You bought clause 24 in which stretched some Landlords to avoiding the risk on HB.

And now, I'd say the biggest reason for refusing HB is the new Universal Credit UC system u numptees. You paying the tenant direct the RENT FOR THE HOUSE. I say this, WHAT IS THE WORSE THAT COULD HAPPEN IF YOU PAY THE LANDLORD THE HOUSING ELEMENT DIRECT? Ooh yes, the Landlord gets his rent, he pays the mortgage, & the tenant doesn't become homeless. What an Einstein brainwave. Ooh no my dog's just worked that out too. Seems the Govt & UC can't.

Ooh this morning when that was on the news, Shelter ring me, see me. I'll tell u how it is. We only want the rent. Is that a crime?
Sort the Govt & UC out. UC is a nightmare. We getting it fully in Nottm approx Oct 18.
I only have 3 tenants on it so far & so far 100% failure rate. One tenant, UC paid her for approx 16 18 months AFTER I REPORTED ARREARS.
Engage & communicate with Landlord, we WANT THE TENANT TO STAY. But they can't stay if no rent.
HB tenants are normally on average, more time consuming-FACT!
I have some Letting Agent posh tenants & 1 tenant takes up approx 10 mins of my time per year.
I have lots of HB tenant, A lot EACH ONE takes 6 hours per month.
Do u want to ask me again while I don't take HB.

Sort Benefit cap out. so many thousand there back into the Private Rented.
Sort out direct payment UC, Landlords will come flocking back.
HB made these mistakes years ago, UC won't listen to how HB do it. In UC's manual is How can I make it as hard as possible for Landlord & tenant. Instead of How can we pay this rent so tenant don't go homeless.
There's gonna' be worse to come once UC goes Nationwide.
I ain't got a degree & I have answered why no HB. Yet Eton toffs Tory Govt der.....

Ooh and now Nottingham Selective Licensing & other councils. You give us the most stringent conditions AFTER WE ALREADY HAVE THE TENANTS, that most HB tenants can't abide by.

That Shelter is why we ain't taking HB any more. 'Cause of the above & also you change the rules & goalposts when they already live in the house.
Can you go in a shop & buy a Mars Bar without paying? No, you keep doing it, u get arrested.
Why can someone live in a house & pay no rent? And now you trying to make it harder for Landlord to get tenant out when he ain't paying any rent. Why? U don't even know what's gonna' happen here, do you u dimwits. Landlords are now gonna' go for even more squeaky clean tenants which is gonna' exclude even more HB.

There is your answer Shelter. And I have some VERY GOOD HB been with me 20 years. But I also have some very bad labour intensive HB. We're getting older, we don't want the hassle. We renting them houses & you want us to be debt collector, Social Worker, Policeman, Judge, soft touch. Get with it.
Ring me, I'm waiting.

I give permission for anyone to put my reply on Shelter Facebook page.

Mark Campey

13:34 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Luk Udav at 29/08/2018 - 10:57
I can confirm car rental companies do operate in this way I own a self drive company and all my staff are instructed to turn down anyone that they don’t like the look of. Furthermore this is endorsed by the industry’s associations following resent terror attracts using hire vehicles.
If housing benefits were paid direct to land lords like in the old days landlords would maybe think differently.


13:36 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Whiteskifreak Surrey at 29/08/2018 - 10:28
65% of those on HB wear socks. Are we indirectly discriminating against sock wearers? It has nothing to do with whether or not the applicant is a woman or disabled. It's all about risk.

Whiteskifreak Surrey

13:40 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by MasterG at 29/08/2018 - 13:36
I have posted numerous posts on Shelter's website about risk management as a sound business practice. But of course they have a selective hearing, don't they? Conveniently chose to ignore such comments and pursue their discrimination agenda.

Question Everything

13:47 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

May be a minor point, but what about buildings insurance? I am always asked the question whether I let to working professionals or DSS. I've always answered 'working' regardless but I imagine they charge more for DSS tenants.

I do see the excess on my policy is £100 for working tenants and £250 if they are DSS. Surely (and politically....) the claim ought have no bearing on whether someone is DSS or not. So if the insurance companies can outrightly 'discriminate' then what are we saying?! Yet another extra cost to the landlord for 'not discriminating' and taking on benefits tenants. Maybe in this case we should rightfully be able to increase the rent to DSS just because the insurance costs are higher.

It's a big double standard to accuse the PRS for being discriminative and not calling out the insurers..... Oh, wait, you can't do that why?? Because the insurers work on data and risk assessments? This is what we need to bring to the table, data, risk assessment and case history. I'm sure we have plenty.

Mick Roberts

14:00 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Adam Withford at 29/08/2018 - 13:47
It's a fact, DSS HB LHA UC cost more on average with time management & damage compared to normal posh past credit checks Letting Agent tenant.
I can speak from experience.
I do have some brilliant HB before anyone shoots me down, but on law of averages, the HB tenant is much more labour time intensive than the non-HB tenant.

Dr Rosalind Beck

14:12 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

I don't want to give these fools ideas, but the next thing will be they will say we can't ask for guarantors as that indirectly discriminates against the same groups that they say the 'no DSS' requirement does. I could never have got a guarantor myself and still couldn't now, coming from a family on benefits myself and obviously loads of people fall into that category.

Question Everything

14:31 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 29/08/2018 - 14:00
The modern PC world does not allow us to make experienced calls as these anymore, and besides, when we have quangos like 'Shelter' who are able to distort truth and create the rhetoric that a house/flat does not belong to the landlord but is rather the domain of the social state which will one day dictate to the owner what they can or can not do with a property, our small voices of experience will not prevail.

If they want the data, rather than the 'experience' rhetoric, how do we do that? How do we get such a convincing report together that has all the sources and statements and facts when we are essentially just individuals who are busy enough just getting on with it? We don't have a muli-multi-mutli-million pound charity who is purely dedicated to rebutting the anti-landlord smear campaign where the top directors earn more than most landlords in the country (weird no?).

If anyone is with me, this is getting more and more like an Ayn Rand novel everyday. The Fountainhead was written in the 1940's and the TV issue "Bad Tenants, Rogue Landlords" was already covered therein. It is obviously an eternal struggle but what is significant about now is that we are seeing more and more government and 'social' intervention which will tip the scales to some kind of bad ending. The term "Atlas Shrugged" comes to mind.

Luke P

14:41 PM, 29th August 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Adam Withford at 29/08/2018 - 13:47
This is peak legislation colliding. I believe that insurance companies are able to discriminate. I can imagine when legislation came into being, a big insurance bod who happened to be friends with someone in Government mentioned that it wouldn't suit their industry terribly well, so received an exemption. How ironic that it may even be that very exemption that allows LLs insurance companies to dictate that HB tenants will not be covered, which is then duly passed on by the LL, yet the LL is in the firing line for such a 'policy'...

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