Work and Pensions Committee ‘No DSS’ discrimination evidence heard

Work and Pensions Committee ‘No DSS’ discrimination evidence heard

8:45 AM, 25th April 2019, About 3 years ago 21

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The All Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee has widened its inquiries to take in other potential forms of direct or indirect housing discrimination against benefit recipients It will now look at the “no DSS” ads run by letting agents or the tech companies that promote them, to the property insurance policies that won’t cover homes rented to people who claim a benefit. Also asking mortgage lenders and agencies, whether their policies prevent landlords from letting to claimants who are on benefits.

The committee has heard from landlords and tenants, as well as banks, property agents and Shelter. The lenders and property agents are questioned about their policies in relation to benefit recipients, and what action they are going to take to rectify any potential discriminatory impacts of their policies. The landlords and tenants provided personal testimony of their experience of discrimination against benefit recipients in housing, and what the solutions are.

Witnesses Wednesday 24 April 2019 9.30am: Click Here to read the full transcript of the evidence discussed

  • Helena McAleer, Landlord
  • Lynne Mapp, Mother of tenant
  • Phillipa Lalor, Tenant
  • Greg Beales, Director of Communications, Policy and Campaigns, Shelter
  • Paul Wootton, Director of Home Proposition, Nationwide Building Society
  • Lloyd Cochrane, Head of Mortgages, National Westminster Bank plc
  • Gordon Soutar, Managing Director of Mortgages, The Co-operative Bank
  • Glynis Frew, Chief Executive Officer, Hunters Property Group
  • Adam Hyslop, Founder, OpenRent
  • Helen Buck, Executive Director – Estate Agency, Your Move
  • Matt Campion, Chief Executive, Shepherds Bush Housing Association

Final Exert from the Committee evidence:

Heidi Allen: Would paying the money direct to landlords again help?

Glynis Frew: Yes, that certainly helps. Unfortunately, as far as universal credit is concerned at the moment, it could probably take up to two or three months for that to take place, but that definitely helps. I have had a number of tenants who have said, “I don’t want them to give me the money, because I like to spend it.”

Q97            Heidi Allen: It’s just safer if it goes direct.

Glynis Frew: Yes, absolutely.

Adam Hyslop: I guess the first thing to say is that the worst thing to do here would be to ban the terminology around benefits claimants, without actually sorting the underlying issues. Simply prohibiting phrases in adverts would actually just prohibit us from advertising properties accurately. What we are very keen does not happen out of all of this is that the underlying issues are left unresolved, and that we are not allowed to explain to people whether they are likely to be eligible for a property up front.

That wouldn’t damage our business—to your question, Heidi—but what it would do is basically mean that tenants were spending a lot of time going on fruitless viewings, phoning up landlords and trying to explain their position, when that would have been resolved up front by a clear advert, which is what we believe we currently have.

To take that to the next level down, what we are really keen to do is engage on those three areas I mentioned in terms of why landlords are coming to us and telling us that they don’t want us to send tenants who are claiming benefits. It sounds like, today, you might have made progress on the mortgage side of things.

With regards to being able to insure rental payments, we are now at a scale where we can work directly with underwriters and try to innovate within the insurance industry. We think that, later this year, we will have a product that allows landlords to insure rental income. They are obviously nervous about it because they have never written these policies before, but we do have the scale where we can put it—

Q98            Heidi Allen: The insurers are innovators?

Adam Hyslop: Yes, absolutely. They can be quite slow moving and risk averse.

Q99            Heidi Allen: I used to work in that industry, so I know.

Adam Hyslop: But we can bring the scale so they can run proper trials, and we can hopefully prove to them that somebody receiving income via benefits is not higher risk than somebody earning that income elsewhere.

The third piece is around convincing landlords that benefits income is equivalent to other sources of income. Some of the things that have just been raised are certainly worthy of further investigation. Perhaps almost more effective would be an education piece around making it less scary and understanding how systems work. Yes, obviously, it is important that agents are trained and up to date with how the system works but, ultimately, the people you have got to convince are the landlords who are making the final decision on whether to let their property to this person or this person. We already have quite a lot of procedures and content in place that try to reassure landlords of that. As we have already covered, it is completely rational for landlords to consider a wider range or tenants to let their property more quickly and to ensure that they are happy with who is moving in to their property.

That third area feels like the area where there is a kind of collaboration. I would like to stress that the worst thing that could come out of this would be to prevent us advertising properties accurately without actually addressing the underlying reasons.

Q100       Chair: I agree with you totally; that is a very important point, Adam. Helen.

Helen Buck: My fellow panellists have explained some of the things that would make a big difference. We absolutely support an industry-wide code of conduct. About half of properties in this country do not go through an agent. We believe that we play a valuable role in ensuring that our landlords do comply. We train them on how to comply, we help them comply and we won’t work with them if they don’t comply.

The agent sector is quite an important sector in getting those standards up, but any code of conduct must cover landlords as well. I have already touched on some aspects of the benefits system, particularly universal credit. Under the housing benefit system we had sort of navigated our way in our best branches on how to use it, and there is more we can do across the piece.

Universal credit is challenging. Why would landlords not want to have a tenant where the money is coming directly from the Government? That is really secure. There are a few other things such as clawback worries. Some of our landlords, if they have experienced it, have this concern that, if it has been overpaid, it could come back. I think those are much smaller issues, but they are worth looking at.

Glynis talked about the plethora of legislation. It is a lot, and it is our job to work through it and to ensure we help our landlords, but because it has come in over many years and is a bit piecemeal, we would really welcome something that stepped back and said, “How can we make sure this all fits together in a sensible way?” That needs to be across Government and industry, incorporating all the key players.

Q101       Chair: If we made some proposals where new laws were required, we could also make a recommendation, couldn’t we, Helen, that they consolidate into that Act all the other important bits and pieces from previous Acts, to codify into one Act what the arrangements should be?

Helen Buck: I agree. It has just been a long period of time. That was for good reasons, and we support trying to improve the quality of the housing stock available to tenants, but it has ended up being quite piecemeal, and there are complexities in it that we could simplify. Then we could help our landlords to ensure more easily that they are fully compliant.

Q102       Chair: Can I ask Matt to come in on this?

Matt Campion: The area where I have sympathy with the landlords is the administration of universal credit. In Shepherds Bush we run a debt and welfare benefits advice service that is not available just to our residents, but to any member of the west London community—

Q103       Chair: You must be overrun with cases and inquiries, aren’t you?

Matt Campion: We do have a lot of demand. We find that a lot of the cases that are difficult involve some kind of dispute over medical assessments from the client’s claim, particularly where there is an ESA or PIP—personal independence payment—claim. We find that a large number of cases are refused at the mandatory reconsideration phase, but then we go on to win at tribunal phase. I can see, for landlords, that means a long delay in getting that income and uncertainty as to whether they will get it. If you are an individual buy-to-let landlord or you only have two or three properties, you will not have the resources or the time that we would have at Shepherds Bush to navigate through that benefits system. While clearly I am a strong believer in not banning residents who are claiming DSS, the interplay with universal credit needs to be looked at to make that work.

Q104       Derek Thomas: Can I pick up on that? If we achieve this wonderful thing, so that in future there will be no “No DSS” adverts and that culture is gone from the market, do you see that we will end up with landlords insisting that the universal credit part of housing benefit be paid direct to them as part of the tenancy agreement? That is picking up on your point, Matt. Can you see that becoming the default position, to address some of those concerns?

Matt Campion: Potentially. My understanding is that, if a private landlord has a tenant who is working, they would insist that that person set up a direct debit to pay their rent every month, so I do not see why they would not insist that somebody who has a benefit-derived income could set up that direct debit. Certainly, within our ethical lettings, we find that residents on benefit-derived income can sometimes find that difficult, because if there is a delay in their benefit claim for some reason, their direct debit can bounce, and that causes all sorts of costs with their banking. But I suppose that would be the nirvana we want to reach, where people claiming benefits receive their benefits on time, without interruption and possibly in advance for their housing costs, where they have to pay a month’s rent in advance or pay a deposit.

Q105       Chair: If only.

Matt Campion: If only wishing made it so.

Q106       Derek Thomas: Would you be fairly comfortable, then, if we got to that point where part of the agreement was that you give permission for the housing part of your benefit to be paid directly to the landlord? Are you fairly content with that? It would help to reassure landlords and potentially open up more properties.

Matt Campion: I think so. That is probably a question that other panel members can answer better than I can.

Q107       Derek Thomas: You are nodding, so I assume you would.

Glynis Frew: Yes, I think it would be a lot better, because it minimises the risk. That is the thing, isn’t it? It minimises the risk.

Helen Buck: That is what landlords are looking for. All they really want is a secure source of income that comes in on time and can pay off the mortgage if they have one. So that helps enormously.

Adam Hyslop: If you boil it down to the motivations of different parties, whether mortgage lenders, insurers or landlords, if they see benefits income as equivalent to earned income, there is absolutely no rational reason—let alone a moral one—to discriminate based on the source of that income. Anything you guys can do to convince landlords, lenders and insurers that these things are equivalent would be welcome. Even better, to Helen’s point, if that money is coming direct from Government, you might be in a position where that is considered superior to income from other sources. I think the ideal outcome of this would be that those income sources are then on parity. Nobody is currently insisting that that money is earned in a particular industry, so why should they insist on whether it comes from benefit payments?

Q108       Chair: Taxpayers are always more reliable than anybody else, aren’t they? We have taken on board your point, Adam: we must not push this underground. If we are serious about this, we must get lenders and insurers to stop the discrimination.

Adam Hyslop: Absolutely, because currently we can educate landlords and say, “Look, you should be looking at benefit applicants,” but there are two places to hide, which we just highlighted, where currently we cannot really—

Chair: As we heard from our first witness, if the lender and insurer tell you that you can’t, what are you to do?

Q109       Heidi Allen: To summarise, between you, you represent a big chunk of the private rental market. Matt is an intermediary that you have created to navigate some of the issues. But it sounds like you have not had active involvement with the DWP in terms of helping. So I think one of our recommendations should be for you to be involved as a stakeholder partner with DWP so that the Government can fully understand not just the mechanics of how it works at the moment but the additional difficulties that universal credit is placing on top of this already difficult, dysfunctional market, to see the damage that UC is doing. It will only go one way.

Chair: They should have rent coaches as well as work coaches.

Q110       Heidi Allen: You have just given Matt a job. If that would seem useful, it should be a recommendation that your industry is more heavily involved with the DWP on how this works, because it is clearly dysfunctional and not working for great swathes of people who are on benefits.

Helen Buck: Yes.

Glynis Frew: Yes.



Comments

by Mick Roberts

17:33 PM, 28th April 2019, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Appalled Landlord at 28/04/2019 - 12:54
Here is some reasons, some have read before. The new letter to Ian Duncan Smith hasn't been on here before. It is long, excuse me.

Gees,
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 me 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.

Another thread:

I’ve been asked to put together the majority of UC failings in a letter, by someone who is meeting Ian Duncan-Smith in June. Yes, the MP who bought in UC who now slags it off.
So cause I’ve collated him the info, I’m gonna’ complain on the whole lot, so we can get the clock ticking down on a lot of issues that need correcting.

I’m also copying in Frank Field MP who chairs the work and pensions committee, who is very interested in these shananigans & is bringing some of my cases up at his meetings with the bigwigs who don’t listen.

Firstly, I’m the biggest HB Landlord in Nottingham, so I can talk with conviction.
Had tenants been with me 20 years, had 9 tenants switched so far onto UC, all 9 in arrears that they was wasn’t before.

This 2 week run on him & Amber Dud talking about, it ain’t working.
First, we DO NOT get the last 4 weeks owed from HB. UC & HB aren’t working together.
We have to fight to get the 4 weeks OWED.
The two week run on then doesn’t come automatically as it should., as UC is not sending the automatic stop notice to HB to get the two weeks paid.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/moving-from-housing-benefit-to-universal-credit

And we ain’t getting two week run on. UC starts 1 month + 1 week after HB finishes, so u r waiting 5 weeks & 3 days, so firstly it’s longer than 5 weeks all the MP’s band on about. And the 2 week run on when we do get it, is only paying for the 5+ week gap we or tenant is owed anyway.

I’m being paid by UC for who I don’t know. Yes, UC is putting money in my bank with no reference number on & I han’t got a clue who for. At moment cause only 9 UC tenants so far, I’m putting 2+2 together, but soon when get 10 tenants in the bank in SAME day for SAME amount & only 9 come in, I’m expecting 10, who hasn’t paid? I have to evict all 10 cause someone hasn’t paid.
UC was paying with references. They don’t know why reference has stopped. U cannot set a BACS payment up without a reference.
UC now pay us with NI number. NI number of some tenants we are not supposed to knowing breaching confidentiality rules, GDPR, data protection, so much so that ICO are loving this & currently investigating & apparently DWP in big trouble. All could have been avoided.

Where is the phone number for Landlords they keep saying? There isn’t one. If they give u one, u try & ring it & tell ‘em no rent is coming in.
There is no portal for Landlords as they keep saying, just Council & Housing Associations

They keep paying tenants when more than 2 months arrears. I had one about £7000 17 months. Again this is with ICE, it will be 4 years from the start before I get the complaint resolved.

HB LHA made all these mistakes in 2008 & in 2012 HB learn’t their lessons. Why aren’t UC going to ask HB how it is done? It is so easy to ask them. Ring me, I can cut the homeless down by 50% in 2.3 seconds.

WHAT IS THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU PAY THE LANDLORD DIRECT? Oh I see, landlord gets rent to pay the mortgage & tenant keeps their home & not homeless where it costs 10k to house each homeless person. No joined up thinking.

We should be able to send in simple email to say arrears job done. Not download forms off internet, fill in, email off, only to get no reply & UC keep losing these UC47 forms.

All these complaints are with ICE Independent Case Examiner who take 18 EIGHTEEN months to finalise complaint. And this time is getting longer. Guess who gives ICE the money to regulate DWP. Yes you’ve guessed it DWP. You couldn’t make it up.
ICE won’t look at complaints till UC DWP have gave u Stage 2 complaint reply. Yes you’ve guessed it again, Stage 2 aren’t replying at all cause they saying Let’s not reply cause then ICE won’t investigate us, good this is isn’t it.
That’s 18 months with ZERO rent coming in. Another reason why UC homeless massive.

We need to change the words Housing costs when tenants filling form in online, they don’t understand Housing Costs. Some are ticking None. I know they should do, but they don’t. What is wrong with word RENT?

If LHA already being paid direct, does that not tell u something? LHA direct normally means there has been arrears in the past? So why pay the tenant the HE AFTER already over 2 months in arrears?

Paying tenants the Housing Element HE AFTER they’ve been sanctioned which is apparently against the rules. What’s tenant gonna’ do for food. Gas, elec if no money yet u send her the HE? Yes a two year old has worked that one out, she’s gonna’ spend the rent money u muppets.

Tenants go in to job centre to claim UC & staff asks are u in arrears. Tenant says No. UC then pays tenant HE. Are they nuts? Tenant is gonna’ keep saying No not in arrears as he knows UC will keep paying him some lovely free taxpayer spondoolies so he keep spending it on Nike Trainers. You HAVE to ask the Landlord if tenant in arrears. Landlord knows. Again LHA did this mistake in 2008, 2012 they learn’t their lesson after Landlords took these cases to Ombudsman & won thousands in compensation for each case.

You can’t ask the tenant for rent proof from bank or tenancy. Just cause paying current rent doesn’t mean not in arrears.
Everyone is different, some need a hand, some don’t.
UC says tenant needs to be responsible. I wish they would, then I could go to Spain every month. As it is, everyone is different, some need helps. Where is their welfare support on this? You’ve just made her homeless.
You say they have to be made responsible. Ok, so when they have loan money off u, why do u when u pay them their entitlement, deduct their loan money direct payment to yourself before u even give tenant any money? Why don’t u just pay them the whole lot, then let the tenant pay u from their money? Is it cause u don’t trust them? You can’t have it both ways, they either responsible or not.
Why do u deduct the water bill company direct out their benefit? Is it cause u recognise & don’t trust ‘some’ tenants to pay it? So why do u play fire with TENANTS HOMES. If u making sure their loan money to u & their water bill is being paid, at least make sure their HOUSE HOME that provides shelter, warmth, accommodation, sleep etc. is being paid.

What is non secure about telling me how Much HE in email? This causes problems as u r getting amounts wrong & we only know when u finally pay in bank, when we could act much sooner.

Any queries, please ring me.


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