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Written by George Bailey

The controversial TV programme Benefits Street and the media furore it has created is stigmatising the LHA market and misrepresenting tenants.

That is the verdict of an executive of a website for tenants searching for LHA properties.

Aki Ellahi, Director of Dssmove.co.uk, said: “I have currently 500 tenants on benefits and achieve a rent collection record of 100%.

"Unfortunately in any market, there are bad apples and Channel 4 has searched for and found an unsympathetic example of unemployed people, portraying them in the worst possible light.

"The programme does not give an accurate reflection of the market - just compelling TV, for some."

He added: “Landlords that are refusing to take on benefit tenants are extremely shortsighted. The facts are that out of 30 LHA tenants, there will be one headache and out of every 100, there will be a big problem. This is no different from professional tenants.

"Many landlords that are rejecting LHA tenants are citing Universal Credit as the reason.  The fear of Universal Credit is unfounded.  What landlords don’t realise is that it gives landlords the opportunity to have a direct relationship with the tenant on housing benefit, so any problems can be sorted quickly.

"Universal Credit puts LHA tenants on the same footing as private tenants. Both markets suffer from arrears and I would advise any landlord to use a Credit Union to collect rent. My experience over the years has shown me that tenants do not want the hassle of dealing with housing benefit.  Although they understand that they need to apply for housing benefit, they prefer if the landlord or an agent, who can assist them with doing this on their behalf, as this has been the case for as long as l can remember.“


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    I'm not interested in anything someone running a company called DSSmove has to say.

    • 22 January 2014 21:13 PM
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    EW has it spot on - you can't lump such a large and diverse group together and say they are all the same. We have a number of long term LHA tenants who have a first class record of paying rent on time and looking after the properties, and we also have a (pretty long) list of those who are a constant problem.

    I am now in my 20th year as a landlord and like most of you I have many stories to tell about the good, the bad and the ugly we deal with on a daily basis. The most notable financial change occurred when LHA was introduced and tenants were paid directly. Our arrears rocketed at that point. The Council are more amenable to safeguarding (direct payment to landlords) now but we still have problems - not helped by redundancies at the Council as they try and save money.

    Some of the bad tenants are making as much from the system as they can - moving regularly between properties and leaving a trail of debt behind them. These are the ones shown on the TV programme. Others are not capable of running a household budget, and it is this group who will have problems when Universal Credit is introduced. Homelessness due to S8 repossession has increased since LHA was introduced as landlords seek to get back properties due to arrears - so stand by Iain Duncan Smyth, more of the same is on the way!

    Regarding the TV programme, I think it makes easy viewing but is hardly enlightening to those of us who are in the lettings business. All too often landlords are portrayed as the evil thugs taking advantage of poor helpless tenants. We are meant to be the root of all evil and taking private landlords out of the system is seen, by some, as a cure to all the nations housing problems.

    At least this programme may help to redress this perception. In my experience there are many more bad tenants than bad landlords, and the programme brings this experience to a wider audience.

    • 21 January 2014 11:02 AM
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    "The controversial TV programme Benefits Street and the media furore it has created is stigmatising the LHA market and misrepresenting tenants."

    No it isn't! In my experience as a letting and landlord they are spot on.

    There are of course exceptions as some tenants are on benefits through no real fault of their own. There is also a large proportion of 'professional' housing benefit tenants who are exactly like the ones being portrayed. I don't believe channel 4 had to do much research for this one.

    Incidentally I have tenants myself on benefits and they have a bigger plasma TV than me.

    • 21 January 2014 10:13 AM
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    Aki Ellahi,

    " Channel 4 has searched for and found an unsympathetic example of unemployed people, portraying them in the worst possible light."

    Holiday Showdown, Wife Swap, Brat camp, Britains Got Talent, Embarrassing bodies - the list goes on.

    No one watches boring real life. Most live it every day.

    People want to watch extremes - its entertainment. If you think we as viewers believe this is indicative of every person on HB, you are very much mistaken.

    • 21 January 2014 09:31 AM
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    So many agents wont even consider Housing Benefit tenants - those who do have an near unchallenged market and often the tenants are extremely grateful for the service an agent provides.

    Benefits Street is sensationalist entertainment. I still find it incredible that the chain-smoke fags at £8 per pack and all have satellite TV. That's not my experience of HB tenants.

    I also agree with the post below - graduates in their first job are often a bloody nightmare. They can be very rude and dismissive of complaints.

    The days when there were city bonuses were a nightmare.

    • 21 January 2014 09:27 AM
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    Claw back is the killer. A landlord should not have to effectively insure against the dishonesty of a tenant.

    That said, HB tenants are no more problematic than any other. Just because someone is employed when the tenancy starts doesn't mean their job is secure as we have all seen over the last few years.

    I have had few problems with single mothers on HB and far more with graduates in their first job and the parties which sometimes follow on payday.

    You cant label any group.

    I hate ALL sweeping statements ;)

    • 21 January 2014 09:22 AM
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    I've never had an employed tenant not pay rent because they have bought christmas/birthday presents instead. I have dealt with plenty of LHA tenants who have. Would I choose to manage a tenancy with a long term LHA tenant? Not on your nelly!

    • 21 January 2014 08:49 AM
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    so get rid of claw back and paper bonds and we may consider it.

    • 21 January 2014 08:41 AM
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    I think this guy is contradicting himself he is saying he has 500 tenant with a 100% record but then in another paragraph is saying that he has problems with 1 in 30 tenants on Housing Benefit. The truth is the majority of benefit claimants are good tenants and try and pay their rent on time but unfortunately the minority will always get the better publicity. For example we have a couple living in a 2 bedroom flat with a baby me and the landlord went round for an inspection and the place was immaculate with brand new furniture and up to date electronics. They then fell behind with their rent so we chased them for it they then phoned the council who in turn phoned us and informed us they can not pay because they are on the breadline yet their flat has every mod con you could ever need. That’s what’s wrong with the system.

    • 21 January 2014 08:40 AM