Thousands of households who receive housing benefit face discrimination and being denied access to rental accommodation, a new report suggests.
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) around half of landlords say they would not be willing to let to tenants on housing benefits.
As a result, the government says it plans to investigate letting adverts that discriminate against would-be tenants on housing benefit.
With 4.5 million households in rented accommodation, and 889,000 of these in receipt of housing benefit, it is possible that thousands of vulnerable people could struggle to access the rental market.
Minister for family support, housing and child maintenance, Justin Tomlinson says: “Everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home, regardless of whether they are in receipt of benefits.
“With Universal Credit, payments can be paid directly to the landlord, and we continue to listen to feedback and work with landlords to improve the system.”
Minister for housing and homelessness Heather Wheeler MP adds: “I want everyone to have the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life – at the heart of which is ensuring everyone can find a safe and secure home to call their own.
“I will also be meeting key stakeholders to tackle the practice of ‘No DSS’, to underline the need for immediate change.”
The Residential Landlords Association, which represents landlords across the country, says its own research has found that the average amount owed by tenants in receipt of universal credit increased from £1,600 n 2017 to just under £2,400 in 2018.
High street bank NatWest today also announced it was scrapping restrictions on landlords with buy-to-let mortgages from letting homes to benefit claimants. The RLA says its figures show two thirds of the largest buy-to-let lenders don’t allow landlords to let property to tenants receiving housing benefit.
Responding to the announcement, John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association says: “Landlords should not refuse someone solely because they are on benefits, and should consider prospective tenants on a case by case basis.
“But with growing numbers of benefit claimants now reliant on the private rented sector we need to do more to give tenants and landlords greater confidence in the benefits system.
“This means giving all tenants the right to choose if they want to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord, working with bank lenders to remove mortgage terms that prevent landlords renting to benefit claimants and ending the Local Housing Allowance freeze which has meant benefits bear little resemblance to rents.”
Paul Wootton, director of home proposition at Nationwide Building Society, adds: “Everyone should be able to access a safe and secure home suitable for their needs. The continued presence of ‘no DSS’ restrictions in the private rented sector is unfair and denies this right to a significant group of people.
“Nationwide does not put this type of restriction in its buy to let mortgages and we urge others – lenders, agents and landlords – to act now to change this outdated practice.”