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Property Hawk

Tenants on benefit

I read recently on a landlord forum a suggestion from one disgruntled tenant that landlords should be forced to accept housing benefit tenants and tenants on Local Housing Allowance (LHA).  The premise of their argument was that private landlords shouldn’t be able to discriminate against housing benefit tenants, turning them away purely on the basis that they received a government hand out. 

Thankfully we live in a society where discrimination is outlawed.  This makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to let out their property on the following grounds: 

race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, disability or age


 (that is of course unless you are a 'ginger' in which case discrimination appears to be rampant & acceptable!)

 Read more on Discrimination in housing

So is it right that landlords should be able to turn away a tenant just because they are in receipt of a financial handout from the state?



Housing benefit tenants



“All housing benefit tenants are good for nothing, lazy, rubbish.” This is the view of many landlords. Is this kind of prejudice warranted and if so should landlords have the right to turn away perfectly legitimate tenants purely on the basis that they are in receipt of housing benefit?

Before I turn to the moral issues, I want to examine some of the positive and negative aspects of renting to this group of tenants.


The pros & cons of housing benefit tenants



Many landlords have made a fortune out of letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or what is now the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) so don’t knock it. Here are some points for and against letting to tenants in receipt of Local Housing Allowance.  Maybe you can think of some more, if so feel free to post them below.


FOR
1.You can let property in less desirable areas.  Capital costs and rental yields are therefore correspondingly lower and higher 



The returns available can be phenomenal and many landlords have made large fortunes out of  letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or it’s LHA replacement.


2. Tenants on benefit, if they are good ones, will often rent for much longer than private tenants as once they have their rents paid by the council they are then reluctant to leave.  That is if they are good tenants.  If you get a ‘badden’ then they will disappear very quickly without paying and with most of your fixtures (see AGAINST)


3. Depending on the Local Authority since the amendments made to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in 2011 allows councils to make direct payments to tenants provided that they are at affordable levels i.e. below those outlined by the Chancellor as the capped level in the budget.  This means rents are paid by the government straight into your bank account every month (so no sleepless nights over rents!)


4. Higher yields mean healthier cash flows and correspondingly greater purchasing power giving landlords the ability to build up a larger portfolio quicker.


5. Higher cashflow means greater opportunities to take a living wage faster.  For many aspirant professional landlords this is the way to get away from the drudgery of the 9 to 5 and become the boss of your own property business.


AGAINST


1. Lets face it, the flipside of letting property to those on benefits is that you could spend a lot of time going to the parts of town you’d normally avoid, Having to deal with some of the world’s great unwashed (there are of course some lovely tenants in receipt of benefits!)

2. Greater management time is involved when you are running a property portfolio letting to tenants receiving housing benefit.  This is because that often properties in this sector of the market are older and require greater levels of maintenance.


3. The complexity of dealing with tenants on Local Housing Allowance is much greater because you are effectively dealing with two bodies.  There are the tenants themselves but then there is also the council as the ‘pay master general.’  Often the two don’t communicate and you are left in the middle – “confusing and frustrating”.


4. Any dealings with the council will lead to a fair amount of frustration and complexity – housing benefit is no exception.  Do you really want to work your way around pages of government guidance on the LHA claims process? Knowing it could change on the whim of a Governement minister.


5. Investing in property to let to LHA tenants might bring you higher income in the short term, but will your investment deliver less attractive capital and income returns in the longer term?  This is because capital appreciation of up market property has generally outperformed less expensive property.  Just look at the stellar performance of Londons ‘super prime’ property.


Should landlords be forced to let?


So returning to my original premise “should landlords be forced to let to tenants on benefits?”
At the heart of the argument lies economic power. 
If you accept the fundamentals of capitalism that money gives you spending power and choices, then the seller in this case the landlord should retain the right of choosing who they let to.


Fundamentally I would love a 10 bedroom listed Tudor Hall in the Peak District.  The fact is I can’t afford it and even if I could any seller would not have to accept my bid should they prefer to sell it to somebody else.  It frequently happens that buyers will accept less if they think that an under bidder is likely to deliver on their promise to pay and they prefer to deal with them. 

So why should renting be any different?

Renting rights sacrosanct

Aside from the practical difficulties of enforcing a system that would police whether or not a landlord had wilfully discriminated against a tenant on benefit.  The right of a landlord to let to whom they want should be sacrosanct.  It’s a fundamental right of ownership.  What’s more good landlord and tenant relationships are as much about partnership.  If you don’t feel comfortable with working with your tenant; then the chances are that it will be a “shotgun” wedding that won’t work for either party.

Got a view?  Place your comments below.

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Comments (16)

I agree that landlords should always have the right to choose who they let to. It should be not a matter for the State or anybody else to dictate.
#1 - Bill - 03/12/2012 - 19:16
Tenant on benefit.
Hi there.

I had a tenant on benefit and she never paid rent for four months due to her benefit being put on hold by the council, this was due to a delay in her receiving her visa/residency order, she was supposed to stick it out until the matter was resolved by the council and the home office, however she dissappeared overnight from my property leaving it in a mess and state of disrepair, as well as owing £2450 in rent arrears. ahe absolutely refuses to communicate with me and I've had no end of problems through this, is there anything you may be able to advise me on.

Many thanks for your help.

Kind Regards.

Paul Deakins.
#2 - Paul Deakins - 05/01/2012 - 18:47
Discrimination
What is discrimination - Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership - or perceived membership - in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. It involves excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to other groups (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination)
It is discriminatory practice to disregard all potential tenants on the basis that they are in receipt of benefits therefore it should be against the law to do so.
On the flip side landlords should retain the right to rent their properties to who they so wish - The answer is for landlords to continue to check prospective tenants by way of personal impression, references and credit checks and by return a tenant should be able to meet other tenants with the same landlord to get an impression of their suitability as a landlord.
To advertise a property as being unavailable to benefit claimants is no less discriminatory than saying no blacks allowed. People got away with such appalling discriminatory practice against ethnic groups for years that discrimination is now hidden, as its against the law.
I personally hope the law is changed to pull landlords into line so they cant descriminate against any groups of people and to stop using derogatory terms such as "the great unwashed" and in return they may get decent rent paying tenants in return.
#3 - Mrs S R Carpenter - 06/01/2012 - 10:11
Discrimination
What is discrimination - Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership - or perceived membership - in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. It involves excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to other groups (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination)
It is discriminatory practice to disregard all potential tenants on the basis that they are in receipt of benefits therefore it should be against the law to do so.
On the flip side landlords should retain the right to rent their properties to who they so wish - The answer is for landlords to continue to check prospective tenants by way of personal impression, references and credit checks and by return a tenant should be able to meet other tenants with the same landlord to get an impression of their suitability as a landlord.
To advertise a property as being unavailable to benefit claimants is no less discriminatory than saying no blacks allowed. People got away with such appalling discriminatory practice against ethnic groups for years that discrimination is now hidden, as its against the law.
I personally hope the law is changed to pull landlords into line so they cant descriminate against any groups of people and to stop using derogatory terms such as "the great unwashed" and in return they may get decent rent paying tenants in return.
#4 - Mrs S R Carpenter - 06/01/2012 - 10:40
Discrimination
I am a semi invilade on benefits including housing benefit, and because of this I am discriminated against by landlords. I believe the law should be changed so that landslords can not ask if one is employed or not.I am a good tenant,pay the rent on time. do not smoke, play loud music or have noisey parties. There are some people who are in work who do not pay rent and vanderlise the premices.With housing benefit the landlord is always sure of receiving the rent.Most of the flats I am shown are dirty and unkept. Why should I be forced to live in a slum flat just because of no fault of my own I am on benefits
#5 - Miss Duggan - 06/14/2012 - 19:10
LHA tenants
In the article in pros 3 it says 'since 2011 rents are paid by the government straight into your (landlord's) bank account'
I deal with three local authorities and none say that. Indeed, one had a meeting of landlords in 2010 and said the law would change in 2011 so that all LHA tenants would be paid directly to themselves NOT the landlord including ones renting from the LA. Can you clarify please?
Discrimination - as with everything it is the minority which ruin things for the majority. One of our tenants got a letter saying his benefit would be reduced by £10-20 a week until the 'overpayment' (which had occured because he hadn't sent a form back) was repaid. He didn't take any notice of it - because it made no difference to him. It was deducted from what they pay me but I didn't find out until weeks later because they pay in arrears, and then they wouldn't tell me why, just that the tenant knew! This one is being paid direct to me because he was over 8 weeks in arrears. I haven't been paid the arrears, and have reduced his rent by £7-50 a week to match what the LA pays.
Another lady had £800 paid into her account by the LA for rent - she just went on a spending spree! Eventually, I evicted her but she had had 6 cats in the bedrooms just left and when the house was empty, there was one cat still there starving and so thirsty. The carpets, which had cost £2000 for her to move in, were ruined - I had to cut them up with a stanley knife and cart them to the tip because of how the cats had wrecked them. She owes far more than the £800 and I have had letters from lots of different companies and baillifs for her.
Another,who was definitely part of the unwashed, eventually was persuaded to leave, owing a small fortune, and said someone might contact us for a reference and it had better be a good one or he wouldn't go.He was in a multi-occupancy house. Another in that house left faeces on the carpet, in the bathroom, and on clothes put in the washing machine, so everyone else left. I was moving 6 large empty whisky bottles a week besides rotting food all over from him and we have eventually got him to move out today!! Now that will be totally refurbished and we will have another go to get decent people in.
So,to the people who think it is discriminatory, please see a little of the other side. We also have several other housing benefit people who keep everything excellently, pay rent absolutely on time, if there are any problems with the houses we put them right straight away so everyone is very happy and, if any of their friends and family are wanting to rent, they always ask if we have anything because they know it will be good.
To the lady who is semi-invalid, try getting a reference from a previous landlord and perhaps deal with a smaller, local letting agent who will know the landlord and might be better able to help you. There are lots of good properties out there and landlords looking for good tenants - we just need to get together!!
#6 - Marjorie Wheelhouse - 07/21/2012 - 12:45
Mortgage restriction
Most mortgages stipulate that a property can't be let to benefit recipients, so it may not be the landlord that has put the restriction on, but the fact that the property is mortgaged.
So if the over riding theme here is about discrimination, how come mortgage lenders are allowed to?
#7 - Lee Breeze - 08/17/2012 - 09:43
Eqaulity Act ( 2010)
The Eqaulity Act fundamentally changes the rights of landlords to rent to whoever they like and effectively this means that it would almost always be indirect discrimmination to refuse tenants on LHA. This is because most tenants entitled to these benefits have an underlying protection under the Eqaulity Act because they have at least one or more of the protected characteristics covered by that act.

At the moment very few tenants are aware of this but hopefully that will change very soon when councils begin to make housing applicants aware of their rights and advocate for them in the courts.

I would strongly advise landlords to always accept LHA tenants even if bank statements etc are not what the landlord would like to see (basing a decision on this criteria is also indirect discrimmination in most cases too)

I have no doubt a lot of landlords will get away with discrimminatory behaviur for a while to come but eventually they will be caught out and could in some instances even get a criminal conviction if they display signs of covert hatred on a regular basis against these groups of people
#8 - Marie Broderick - 01/25/2013 - 16:32
Older benefit renters for me are the best
as a landlord I have to say I have had no problems with my tenants on benefit, except for one 26 yr old employed tenant doing a moonlight owing 6 weeks rent.
I have found LHA tenants to stay longer, {10 years at present} My five tenants are all over 50 years and dont party or play load music and always pay the rent on time every week. I have had problems with much younger tenants who have been employed and would rather spend their rent money on binge drinking and being sick on my carpets each weekend.
#9 - Page - 05/05/2013 - 19:30
Tenants on Benefits
Our landlord property insurance is with Direct Line and they specifically state that we are not covered if we let to tenants on benefits. We are only covered for people who are working, retired or on disability benefit.
#10 - Lesley Morris - 05/09/2013 - 23:47
Retired Tenants on Benefits
Some landlords would not even rent to people who are retired, and are in receipt of State Pension, Pension Credit and Housing Benefit. Is it also due to insurance/mortgage restrictions?
#11 - Maria Ringblom - 10/21/2013 - 19:48
Housing benefit does not define us
Ok so we rented a larger house for 15 months, our rent was always paid on time via dd every month, landlady wanted to up the rent by £100 to £1200 PCM which we felt was too much for the property, we moved out. No deductions were needed from our deposit. The house was then put back on rental market with the higher rent, 6 months later the house is still empty so the rent has gone back down to £1100 PCM. So we got together our months rent in advance, 6 weeks rent deposit and £450 agency fees and re applied to rent the house we loved again. However this time we are told that due to us being in receipt of housing benefit ( we get £200 a month top up, my husband works and I'm home with our children) we would not be considered for the tenancy! I truly do not understand how this is fair? We were in receipt of the same benefits the last time we lived there, and never missed a rent payment, we took good care of the property and never had any problems whilst living there. We were also refused a viewing on another house at just 750pcm as the agency felt we couldn't possibly afford the rent, even after informing them that we had been paying £1100 a month for 15 months and could prove this, they wouldn't even consider us. We are good tenants and just want a nice home in a nice area to raise our family, why does being on housing benefit mean we don't deserve that?
#12 - Liane - 11/08/2013 - 17:58
Housing benefit tenants
Unfortunaetly I have come across the same thing. Waited weeks and weeks for payment and was given every excuse why the payments were not being paid into my bank, even went to the DSS to see if I could help sort it out - answer - No - rent was to be paid to the Tenant but would not tell me if they were receiving it.
I think it would help if there could be some sort of leiasion between Landlord and Dss to actually find out before that people are entitled to housing benefit.
#13 - dot - 12/23/2013 - 15:02
UK still runs on old rules
I was born in the UK, but I have spent 12 years living and working in 3 other countries. On returning here (which I am fast regretting), it would appear that the UK still has the same out dated, discrimination prejudices as ever.
Why does the term 'Benefits' in the UK automatically put people in some sort of reject box? Other countries, particularly those in Western Europe, understand that circumstances change, particularly in difficult climates. And they have the good moral grace to accept this as part of life, and not tar people with brushes brimming with judgemental and misplaced sweeping statements. Do people really need reminding yet again as to the reasons why we are in this mess now? And which institution exactly (financial!) is primarily responsible for placing millions of innocent parties in these difficult positions? And all because of their reckless, immoral fraudulent acts, gross misconduct and complete lack of regard and respect to mankind.
But of course in the UK, their vast sums of money (however ill gained gotten) affords them the title of ‘the washed ones’ – so that’s ok.
The UK’s way = worship the rich, condemn the poor and just ignore the rest……
No wonder we’re going down the plug hole.
#14 - Kat - 12/28/2013 - 16:18
Discrimination
I am a tenant who feels I'm discriminated against, I work 50 plus hours a week, and claim Lha to top my rent up, I'm looking for a bigger property as my fully is expanding

We have offered 5+plus years landlords reference with no defaults or arrears whilst claiming lha throughout the 5+ years

Yet no one is interested in that because as soon as I mention we claim lha it's ' sorry can't accept you' I have even offered to pay for a rent guarantee ins but no one is interested

I understand that there are bad tenants out there, but why should we all be put in the same basket !!
#15 - Darren - 03/17/2014 - 12:29
Discrimination.
I feel that they are discriminating against people who are in unfortunate situations. They have the options of extensive reference checks, guarantors and if they feel the need they could always meet the person beforehand, instead of just callously dismissing them. My husband and I are discriminated against for this reason. My husband works hard, doing more hours than most, but due to the minimum wage and the ever increasing rent prices we still need a small amount of housing benifits to make ends meet. I am currently in the last year of my degree which when I have finished, I can use to find a job as my son will be of school age so I am less restricted with job choices (which I have found impossible when you have a toddler and no childcare). We currently have this problem, we need to find a new place where my son can stay locally at his nursery (which will become his school) and have only found found one place that is adequate. When we approached the letting agents they had no problem with us or our situation and pleaded our case to the landlord, who flat out refused. We offered to provide extra references, a guarantor, a meeting with him, anything to put his mind at rest, but he refused on the grounds that he had "bad experience with housing benifit people." I find this totally offensive as we are decent, hardworking people who have never had trouble with a landlord, always paid our rent on time, always left properties in the condition we recieved them in and are just ordinary, boring, no parties, non-house trashing people. It upsets me that landlords can buy up all the cheap properties, driving up house and rent prices, putting people like my husband and I in situations where we need help with rent, only to deem us unfit to live in their houses- despite being partly responsible for the situation, based on the fact we recieve a small amount of benefit. The letting agent was most sympathetic to us and genuinely tried to help, so what do landlords expect? I pity the landlord who dismissed us as the property will most likely be taken by someone who lies and denies recieving benifit, and I don't think a dishonest tennant would be better than honest ones such as my husband and I. It is sad that my son will have to grow up in the place we live now, which is not pleasant, but all we are deemed worthy of renting by discriminating landlords.
#16 - MJ - 04/30/2014 - 20:33
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This is a regular discussion point amongst many landlords.  Those that have been dissatisfied wit...
It's a landlords’ dread!   A nice respectable looking tenant, with a good...
Rebecca Brough of Fidler and Pepper Solicitors asks whether landlords need a tenant guarantor, and exp...
The thing with managing a portfolio of buy-to-let property is that for much of the time you don't have...
Brings Threats and Opportunities Many landlords are adopting a wait and see approach to the G...
Severe rental arrears fell by almost 16 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012 according to data from ...
Should a landlord let their tenants smoke? Landlords are acutely aware of the bad smells and ...
New Year celebrations are well and truly over, so it’s back to work, and for many landlords, sma...
I was thinking today, what would be the top 5 things I would wish for next year as a landlord.  S...
You may think that as a landlord you are not liable for your tenants’ water bill. Well up until ...
I can't begin to explain how fraught the last few weeks have been.  Most part time landlords will...
The buy-to-let mortgage market has been in the doldrums for several years after the ‘crash&rsquo...
Rebecca Brough of Fidler and Pepper explores the world of fees and charges in respect to a landlords ...
Don’t forget your section 213 notice! Property Hawk has been urging landlord not to forget about...
You are just about to let your buy-to-let.  So what are the essential bits of paper work that you...
Is there such as thing as the ‘fair wear and tear’ of your buy-to-let property? ...
Landlords looking to obtain possession have two basic choices when trying to get their buy-to-let prop...
So it all goes wrong!  The tenant moves out (disappears) and owes you months of rent.  They ...
We recently had a enquiry on the Landlord Forum asking whether it was a good idea to serve a section 2...
Landlords seeking possession frequently have to decide between the merits of using a Section 21 notice...
Renewing a tenancy is one of the most straightforward aspects of managing a tenancy.  But many la...
Getting possession of a rental property when your tenant falls into rent arrears Th...
I read recently on a landlord forum a suggestion from one disgruntled tenant that landlords should be ...
My latest round of tenant gripes has hit me after a relatively quiet period. I suppose it was...
After launching the new version of the property management software we felt the actual site pages look...
Rental yields have always been a critical metric when evaluating a buy-to-let investment and they are...
Any landlord who follows London politics will not have escaped the fact that the private rented sector...
I was chatting this week to my joiner Steve. He was having a nightmare! Steve had done most o...
The Co-op announced last week that it was stepping up lending into the buy-to-let mortgage market by a...
Legislation should be in place by the end of the year to allow landlords to benefit from the Green Dea...
It's January which means only one thing for most landlords, yes it’s time to get to grips with t...
As the year comes to an end many landlords will be drawing up their plans for 2012. With the ...
I was contacted several weeks ago by one of our longstanding users. Kevin wrote to highlight ...
I'm like the majority of small landlords in that I have opted to use the Deposit Protection Scheme (DP...
Europe is at it again! Not content with their crazy project “Euro”  putting ...
You might be aware that I’ve had a number of new tenants recently. This has i...
It’s a great time to be a landlord. Many of us including me are making record rental pr...
I was contacted last week by a landlord looking to gain access to their bu...
I’ve written before about landlords not needing to use a letting agent. We al...
It's been a while since I've had a new tenant move in. The new tenant seems amiable enough. A middle a...
My landlord insurance fell due at the beginning of this month. DAMMM! Yet again the dilemma. ...
It is possible to get a company to fill out your N5B.  This will cost anything upwards of £...
Most landlords use an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement to let their property. So how long ...
I've been looking at some recent enquiries from landlords who use our Property Management software to ...
Most landlords who let a property that is tenanted will not be liable for council tax.  This is b...