Discussion in 'General disability topics and advocacy' started by Sarah94, Jul 15, 2020.
It's about bloody time – although I'm not convinced it will make much difference, as it'd be easy for landlords and lettings agents to ensure quietly that claimants entitled to housing benefit failed affordability tests.
It would help if more councils processed applications promptly, as one of the issues for landlords dependent on their rental income for daily living costs or to repay a mortgage is that they can be waiting for weeks on end for a new award to come through. The decision to pay housing costs to claimants rather than landlords under UC has also been disastrous; it is possible to request that housing payments go direct to the landlord, but it's not easy to do, and it would probably be considered discriminatory for a landlord to make it a condition of a let.
But on the other hand, if courts granted section 21 notices “eviction”and easy enforcement for Multiple non payment and trashing the place Then landlords would be more willing to accept the risk?
My young daughter bonded with a single claimant and was taken for a ride loosing £5 k. From damage and non payment. She was heartbroken as she had moved for work reasons, this was her First main home. As usual the minority spoil it for the majority.
two sides to the problem but for her she will never let to any claimant and will sell first or leave empty and pay the council tax which is more economic than facing the loss. Sad but once bitten.... And with zero assistance from anybody the tenant just moved on to the next sucker. Affordability as you say will be the next barrier, her current tenant has just paid a year in advance so zero risk of non payment and mortgage default.
I think this is about estate agents making 'blanket bans' on benefits claimants. As the story shows, even when the claimant had excellent references from previous tenancies, a good credit rating, being able to pay 6 months rent upfront and a professional guarantor, they were still refused a let property by the estate agency because of their employment status. This is pure discrimination.
As a benefit claimant and a social housing tenant I am pleased to see this discrimination recognised in law for what it is. However, it wouldn't have helped me, what saved me when I was losing my matrimonial home in a divorce (due to not being able to afford the high mortgage) was being offered a council house with a life time secure tenancy. Creating more social housing is the only solution for most claimant families and individuals.
If HB were always paid promptly and direct to landlords, there'd be far fewer problems with arrears.
As for trashing the place: this will always be a risk, but asking for references and following them up removes a lot of it. That still leaves a problem for young tenants with no history, but better-off large landlords could come up with schemes for them, leaving individuals with just one property to rent out to be more selective.
Many of the disabled people who've been discriminated against have excellent references going back years for both payment of rent and taking care of their homes. It often isn't even the landlords who're driving this discrimination; a lot of the problems arise from buy-to-let mortgage conditions and lettings agents.
I was advised by several lettings agents that they wouldn't consider me as a tenant, but a couple of years later I realised that the owner of one of the properties I'd been interested in was my friend's next door neighbour. When I spoke to him about what had happened, he had no idea that HB claimants were being rejected out of hand by the agency even if they'd offered to pay six months' rent up front as a deposit, had good references, and were on a 'legacy' benefit where HB is always paid to the landlord anyway. He'd been a claimant himself for nearly three years before landing a good job, and would have had no problems renting to me. He changed agents after that, bless him!
Hear, bloody hear! I only got my social home because I'm disabled and over 55; had I not been, I'd have had to wait up to 10 years instead of 15 months.
Everyone in my family lived in council housing, in an era where there were few obstacles to a family getting a tenancy, and where a young single person could expect to be offered one after two or three years on the waiting list.
My grandparents rented the same house for 66 years, and both they and my parents point-blank refused to try and buy their homes in the 80s because they believed it wasn't fair to future generations.
Some others on my grandparents' street did buy, and you can now identify the privately-owned houses – mostly tatty and unimproved, occupied either by elderly people with no money to spend on them, or rented out to students – and the ones the council managed to keep, which have new windows, roofs, and external insulation.
I think a huge emphasis on building new social housing is not only important to the life chances of people who can't afford or don't want to buy, but also to environmental improvements. Many of the large commercial landlords will do the absolute minimum required to improve energy efficiency and switch to sustainable heating systems. There are some pretty poor local authority and housing association schemes too, of course, but many of them are better on environmental standards.
My parents were offered a council house in the 60's, before I was born but when they already had 2 young children. At that time it was still quite difficult to get a council house (it got easier in the 70s). Their landlord had to write a witness statement that he was selling the house he was letting to them and that they were going to be made homeless.
They bought their first house in the early 70's, but my mum hated the 'modern' open plan build and tiny garden, regretting the move. Our council house had 3 decent size bedrooms, a dining room and a huge garden where my brother and mum grew their own veg. For a few years we were a 3 generation family of 7 living in it, as my mum moved her mother in for the last few years of her life (using the dining room as her bedroom).
Looking on the Homeswapper website, many new tenants have been put on fixed term tenancies and the new 'affordable' rent, which appears to be at least a third higher than social rent and almost as much as private rent (it is supposed to be 20% less than market rent but it seems nearer market rent to me). Social houses should have rent set at the old social level, the new system doesn't support poorer people at all. No security and most low paid workers would still need a housing benefit top-up to afford the monthly rent!
How interesting – I guess it depends where you live to some extent? I was a new tenant when I first moved in, but everyone is automatically offered secure tenancies after 12 months unless they've failed to pay rent or caused problems.
When I was considering renting privately, I found the market rate for a two-bed bungalow around here is anything from £620 to £660 pcm; the social rent I pay now is £476, so a good bit less. It's still a chunky sum of money for a council house, but it's higher than some tenants pay because it's a brand new property with a wetroom, solar panels, dual climate central heating, high spec insulation, etc. I know a couple who live not far away in a council owned two-bed bungalow built in the 1970s, who only pay £372.
When I was first given a council house in 2003 (in Devon) my social rent was about 50% of the market rent. This meant when I was on Working Tax Credits I was able to pay the full rent without housing benefit. However, now my rent works out to about 75% of market rent (given the condition of the property, which is poor), so proportionally it's gone up. However, in areas such as London, social rent is still probably 50% of market rent or even less in the most expensive areas (such as Westminster), although obviously the rent would still be more than in my area of the country in pounds.
The new 'affordable rent' is an option councils and housing associations can ask for new build properties, supposedly to make it more affordable for them to borrow money to build them. This new rent and fixed term tenancies are optional and is unlikely to be applied to supported housing or housing aimed at the elderly.
Housing benefit will always cover rent set at social rent rates (presuming the bedroom tax deduction doesn't apply), unless the claimant is affected by the benefit cap (which usually only applies to large families without any disabled members).
Our council's rents do vary a bit, but it hasn't gone down the fixed-term tenancies route at all. They're either introductory (first 12 months) or secure. The only variant is where a secure tenancy is demoted due to serious breaches of the tenancy agreement, but they're pretty good at supporting people with money problems or a misbehaving family member to sustain the tenancy.
Hopefully they'll continue with the policy, as it's an important element of social housing – but as you say, different pressures apply in different parts of the country. In some developments, secure tenancies might not even be a priority because the population is naturally mobile anyway, e.g. tiny flats where the majority are younger people without children. Around here, a lot of council accommodation is still in houses with 2 or 3 bedrooms and gardens, so tenants are more likely to be long-term.
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