Will Leyland, 29 August 2018
Following research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation which found that one in 10 estate agents rejected DSS claimants as tenants, a man called Stephen Tyler told the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC 2 that housing benefit discrimination had forced him to sleep in his car.
“We have been trying to find accommodation since we were evicted from our last property when we asked for adaptations to be made for wheelchair access. I phone anything up to 20 landlords, estate agents, a day and none of them will accept DSS (tenants on Department of Social Security housing benefits).”
Big high street brands were named as the charities performed an undercover investigation to see what the atmosphere was like for benefit claimants and found that, of 25 branches visited, eight told them that they had a policy of not allowing DSS claimants to apply for rented property.
Further concerns were raised regarding the perception of DSS claimants as many disabled people claim the welfare payments and report problems finding adequate accommodation.
Does the perception match the reality? According to figures reported by the Guardian, DSS payments were worth £9.3bn to private landlords in 2016, almost double the amount that was paid in 2006, showing a huge increase in claimants renting privately as opposed to social rented housing.
The number of households receiving government assistance to pay rent to private landlords has risen 42% since 2008, according to the National Housing Federation, an organisation which represents the non-profit housing sector.
Rules were changed some years ago meaning that this money was no longer paid to landlords directly but rather paid to claimants who would then use it to pay their rent. Some have argued that this has led to a rise in landlords actively avoiding letting their properties to claimants as they feel they are at higher risk of arrears.
There is little if no solid evidence to support the notion that claimants of housing benefit are likelier to get behind on rent payments in comparison to those who don’t claim the benefit and the reality is that, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, over one million families in receipt of DSS payments were working.
Once it becomes obvious that benefit claimants are not statistically more likely to cause issues than non-claimants, there’s also the issue of discrimination. The BBC recently reported that a landmark legal case has ruled that refusing to let properties to those on benefits is discriminatory and leaves landlords and agents open to possible legal action.
Realistically, DSS claimants are at least as reliable as private renters as they’re sent directly from government bodies. With this in mind, perhaps it is time that this particular rental myth was re-examined.
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Will Leyland, 29 August 2018