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Housing Benefit Row: 'the system is at fault, not the rental sector'

The ongoing debate over some letting agents and landlords allegedly refusing to accept tenants in receipt of housing benefit has now attracted the attention of the Residential Landlords’ Association.

The RLA insists the problem is the fault of the housing benefit system itself, administered by the government, and not the fault of the private rental sector. 

“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” explains David Smith, RLA policy director. 

“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 per cent in 2016 to 61 per cent 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.

“Another factor is that almost a quarter of landlords responding to our survey said they had mortgage conditions blocking them from letting to tenants on benefits.

“The government should ensure that the benefits system does not place claimants in a worse position than others looking to rent a home.”

Earlier this week Shelter and the National Housing Federation accused many agents of effectively banning housing benefit tenants following a mystery shopping exercise which involved visiting 149 agency branches run by Bridgfords, Dexters, Fox & Sons, Haart, Hunters, and Your Move.

One in 10 had a branch policy not to let to anyone on housing benefit, regardless of whether they could afford the rent; 48 per cent of branches said they had no suitable homes or landlords willing to let to someone on housing benefit.

The charities’ report claimed Haart was the worst offender with eight out of 25 branches having an outright ban on housing benefit tenants. Only Hunters was found to have no such ban in place at any office. 

Poll: Shelter should be treated as a pressure group, not a charity

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