All posts by National Renters Alliance

Average of only one rogue landlord per council is prosecuted each year according to Parliament figures.

Eviction Notice

An average of only one rogue landlord per council is prosecuted each year according to Parliament figures.

Speaking in a debate about the Housing and Planning Bill, the Labour MP Karen Buck claimed that over the last eight years only 2,000 landlords have been prosecuted for housing disrepair across the whole of the UK. The low number of landlord prosecutions stands in sharp contrast with the estimated 700,000 privately rented properties which have a category one hazard which include faulty electrics, damp and broken boilers.

The figures were presented in a debate about standards in the Private Rented Sector in February. During the session, Ms Buck asked the Government’s Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, whether the low number of landlord prosecutions provided irrefutable evidence that local authorities lack the resources to investigate cases of housing disrepair.

Mr Lewis was also asked whether laws should be passed to allow tenants to take civil action against rogue landlords when their properties are unfit for human habitation. In response Mr Lewis claimed that the proposed Housing and Planning Bill would give councils extra resources to improve housing conditions. It was also stated that councils would be permitted to issue civil penalties against landlords of up to £30,000 and issue rent payment orders for up to 12 months’ rent.

Also participating in the debate was the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq who asserted that many of her constituents who rent privately have reported being the victim of revenge evictions. This comes despite the practice being made illegal for rental agreements signed since 1st October 2015.

Revenge evictions still a problem

Revenge or retaliatory eviction is where a landlord threatens to evict a tenant for requesting repairs or complaining about conditions in their home. It often this affects private tenants with assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreements since they are the easiest to evict. ASTs are currently the most common type of tenancy agreement in the UK and is usually the default contract type for private sector renters.

Despite the new revenge eviction laws, many private tenants are worried that if they complain too much they will be evicted. Furthermore, figures gathered by Radio 1 Newsbeat through Freedom of Information requests show that more than half of local councils across England have not used their new powers under the revenge eviction law. Tightening of council budgets is also claimed to be a further impediment to investigating housing complaints. The Housing Law Practitioners Association is also concerned that the way the law is designed is too complicated.

The extent of the housing crisis comes as data show that private sector rented housing is the most expensive and has the lowest standards of any housing type.  According to Parliament reports, private renters now spend an average of 49% of their income on rent despite nearly one-in-three privately rented houses failing to meet minimum government housing standards.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Seven disgraceful statistics about renting in London

Rent Costs London

1. London Renters spend 60% wages on rent

The English Housing Survey reports that Londoners spend an eye-watering 60% of their gross earnings on rent. Excluding housing benefit this figure rises to 72%.

Even more shockingly, 16-24-year-olds are forced to pay 88% of their income on rent in the capital. When housing benefit is included this falls to 81%. However this age group is particularly vulnerable to reductions in housing benefit.

2. It is cheaper to commute from Madrid each day than rent in Camden Town

Renting a flat in Camden Town and working in Liverpool street will cost a Londoner £2,128 monthly or £25,532 yearly.

If the same Londoner rented a flat in Madrid’s city centre and booked return flights from Madrid to Stansted from Monday to Thursday, he or she would spend £1,725 a month or £20,708 a year.

3. The average rent on a two-bedroom flat is £707 a week or £100 a day  

Figures from property investment firm London Central Portfolio (LCP) show that the average rent on a two-bedroom flat in central London is a whopping £707 a week.

Average rental prices of rooms in a flat-share in Paddington (Zone 1), can cost around £1100 a month.

Council taxes are also a significant  consideration. Areas like Richmond and Kingston tend to be the most expensive at around £1929 a year.  Cheaper areas include Wandsworth where council tax averages £823 a year.

4. London professionals are being forced to live “12 to a house”

According to Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq, London professionals are being forced to live “12 to a house”, thanks to the soaring rents.

In a House of Commons debate Huq said: “Renting is no longer just a transitory thing for those who are in their twenties. It’s becoming routine for people further up the age scale.

“Many in my constituency in their 30s on good money find themselves sometimes 12 to a house with shared sitting room and kitchen.

“At that age, ‘who stole my cheese?’ should not be a way of life.”

5. By 2025, more than half of people under 40 will be living in property owned by private landlords

Over half of 20 to 39-year-olds will be renting from private landlords by 2025, according to accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

PwC economists state that: “For 20-39 year olds, we would expect over half to be renting by 2025, implying a continuing rise in the size of ‘Generation Rent’.

The report suggests that home ownership levels will continue declining to dramatic new levels, dropping below 60% by 2025, as the rise of ‘tenant nation’ looms.

6. The UK has the highest private rents in Europe

A study by British Housing Federation found that rents in the UK are the highest in Europe.

In countries like Germany and Holland, private rents are around 50% cheaper than in the UK.

David Orr, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, said: “British renters get a raw deal in comparison to their continental counterparts. Not only do they face crippling rents, but renters in the UK have almost no certainty about whether they will be able to stay in their home from one year to the next.”

7. One in three rented homes are “not fit to live in”

One in three British three homes do not meet the government’s decent home minimum standard, according to 2014/15 English Housing Survey.

A Parliament report published last year admitted that there have been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England since 2006.

Furthermore, more than 170 tenants are being evicted every day according to 2015 Ministry of Justice figures.  In total 42,728 evictions recorded in England and Wales in 2015.

According to Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, “It’s hard to feel at home in the private rented sector. People can struggle to lead a normal life when their home is in a state of disrepair and they could be told to leave at any time. But many feel powerless to speak out.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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London Homeowners Slashing Prices As Political Uncertainty and High Prices Impact Demand

London House Prices Fall

London home sellers are having to cut asking prices for their homes and are offering greater discounts as high house prices and brexit uncertainties impact demand.

Lucian Cook, residential research director at Savills claims that price cuts seen in prime central London following the Brexit vote are now filtering through to outer boroughs. “Affordability issues are now a problem after a decade of house-price growth, and buyers are finding they increasingly come up against mortgage-lending limits.”

The latest slowdown in London house price growth comes after home prices in the capital have surged by around 86 percent since 2009. London house prices are now 14.2 times the average buyer’s gross salary according to the research firm Hometrack. This is the highest house price to salary ratio on record and more than double the rate for the UK as a whole.

Data released by the  Council of Mortgage Lenders also shows that there has been a fall of 12 percent in the number of mortgages advanced to first-time buyers in London.  High London asking prices have in many cases now exceeded lending limits allowed to banks under rules set by regulators in 2014.

Central London hit hardest

The house price decline has been most notable in central London. Average prices were cut by 8.2 percent in Kensington & Chelsea on an annualized basis compared with 7.8 percent in July.  Westminster and Wandsworth have been similarly affected recording 7.7 percent and 7.1 percent declines respectively.

london_house_prices

In an apparent reversal of typical trends, outer boroughs have been less affected than prime central London. The percentage of sellers cutting asking prices in January rose in all but two of the capital’s 33 boroughs compared with July.

Listings reductions

According to the property website Zoopla, 37.1 percent of property listings in Merton have been reduced.  John J. King, managing director at broker Andrew Scott Robertson added that sales are down “about 25 percent in the past six months, as they were already affected by stamp duty and the referendum made things worse.”

In Kensington and Chelsea 35.4% of listings have been reduced. Estate agents attribute the fall to changes in stamp duty and the effects of the Brexit vote. However, the house price declines may already be leading to greater interest in buying in the borough. Toby Whittome,  a broker at real estate agent Jackson Stops & Staff, claims that “applicants looking to buy are up nearly 40 percent in January, but that doesn’t necessarily result in sales, as people are hoping and waiting for some good news about stamp duty and clarity over the possible impact of the referendum.”

Ealing has also seen a considerable number of price reductions. Following five to six years of steep price increases, 35.4 percent of listings are now reduced. According to Alex Jerram, a broker at Dauntons, a two-bedroom new build in the borough now costs the same as one in Pimlico. “You cannot justify asking the same price for a property in greater London as one in central London. If sellers really need to sell, they have to reduce prices.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Nine out of Ten Private Renters In London Have Experienced Serious Problems While Renting

for_saleNine out of 10 of London’s private renters have experienced at least four serious problems during their tenancy, including electrical faults, incomplete repairs and lost deposits. The survey commissioned by the Green Party London Assembly Member Sian Berry, asked 1,530 Londoners about their experiences, with nearly 70% of respondents writing in to share their stories. 

The results corroborate previous reports conducted by the Housing Charity Shelter which in 2014 found 61% of renters had experienced damp, mould, a leaking roof or window, electrical hazards, animal infestation or a gas leak in the previous twelve months.

Private renters often tolerate poor conditions due to the fear of retaliatory (also known as revenge) eviction. Many renters for example fear possible rent increases if they move or do not wish to provide their landlord with a justification for increasing the rent. In high-demand areas, landlords are able to evict tenants without reason and with just two months’ notice.

The recent law banning of revenge evictions  for tenancies starting after 1st October 2015 was hoped to give renters additional protection from eviction. However, many tenants are unaware of their rights. Moreover, the current revenge eviction legislation heavily depends on the tenant to negotiate with their landlord about disrepair before informing the council.

Very often cases are not investigated by local authorities due to lack of council funds and resources.  A recent study conducted by London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon found that the ratio of environmental health inspections to number of private rented sector homes was as high as one in ten in Greenwich, but only one in 689 in Lewisham.

Figures gathered by Radio 1 Newsbeat through Freedom of Information requests show that more than half of local councils across England haven’t used their powers to investigate revenge evictions.

The magnitude of the problems facing the private rented sector were further corroborated by the Living Home Standard report produced by the housing charity Shelter. The report which asked 1,691 adults about their homes, assessed the affordability, neighbourhood, stability and living conditions of private renters.

It concluded affordability to be the biggest issue, saying people should “thrive” in homes, not just “get by”. It also found 24% of people were unable to save after paying their rent or mortgage each month. A further 23% would struggle if their rent or mortgage costs rose. 18% said they had to regularly cut back on food or heating to meet escalating housing costs, with 20% having to sacrifice social activities to meet the bills.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Top Civil Servant in Charge of Housing Says Housing Crisis Will Continue Under Current Government Policies

generation-rent

One of the Government’s most senior housing civil servants has admitted that new government policies will not end the housing crisis and that homelessness will continue to rise.

Questioned by MPs about why the Government is failing to build enough homes, the Permanent Secretary to the Department for Local Government Melanie Dawes admitted that Theresa May’s new policies will not stop the country’s housing crisis from continuing “as it has done for decades.” Miss Dawes added that she was “simply being honest” when she revealed that houses prices are set to stay out of reach of those who cannot offered a property and that homelessness will continue to rise.

The revelation  comes less than one month after after ministers launched a new White Paper “Fixing our broken housing market” which promised radical policies to solve the housing crisis and increase the supply of new homes.

When asked whether the housing crisis will ever resolve itself, Miss Dawes claimed that “It will continue as it has done for decades, I agree, and that will show itself primarily in affordability and in some places in homelessness”

Revelations about the UK’s inability to tackle the housing crisis comes as average house prices have surpassed ten times the average salary in some parts of the country. In November 2016, data published by the research firm Hometrack showed that with house prices in London are now 14.2 times the average salary. Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol  were also identified as highly unaffordable cities with house price-income multiples close to those in the capital. At the same time the number of households made homeless has risen to more than 50,000 per year.

Commenting on the comments made before the public accounts committee, Labour’s shadow housing minister, John Healey, claimed that Miss Dawes’ appearance confirmed the Government’s policies were not working. “It’s clear that the Government’s housing plans have failed, are failing and will continue to fail.”
“Since 2010, home-ownership has fallen, homelessness has more than doubled and affordable house-building fell last year to the lowest level in 24 years.
“After seven years in Government, there’s now a huge gap between the rhetoric and record of Tory Ministers on housing. We need less hot air and more homes from Ministers to fix this housing crisis.”

During the presentation of the Government White Paper in Parliament, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said: “The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.”

Mr Javid also claimed that relative to population size, Britain has had Western Europe’s lowest rate of house-building for 3 decades. The Communities Minister claimed that the Government would honour its 2015 manifesto promise to preserve the green belt yet remove the Government’s role in land-banking and free up more public sector land more quickly. Furthermore, in a reversal of decades of housing proposals, the white paper indicated that new homes will be built to rent rather than for first-time buyers.

The extent of the housing crisis comes as data show that private sector rented housing is the most expensive and has the lowest standards of any housing type.  According to Parliament reports, private renters now spend an average of 49% of their income on rent despite nearly one-in-three privately rented houses failing to meet minimum government housing standards.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Nearly 30 per cent of Privately Rented Properties in Britain Fail to Meet Minimum government Housing Standards

poor housing renters alliance

Nearly thirty per cent of privately rented properties in the United Kingdom fail to meet the  British Government’s minimum property standards. Perhaps more alarmingly a research paper published last year by the House of Commons research department admitted that since 2006 there has effectively been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England.

Although there are rules which govern the actions of private landlords in the UK which include repairing obligations, these are virtually impossible to police by local government housing officers. Currently the enforcement of housing standards in England and Wales is carried out using a risk-assessment based regulatory model which replaced the Housing Fitness Standard in 2006.

According to the British Parliament research report, the private rented sector has the worst standards of any rental property type. Twenty-nine per cent of privately rented properties would fail to meet minimum standards compared with fourteen per cent of social housing. Furthermore, the report states that since the abolition of the Housing Fitness Standard “there have effectively been no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.”

Since the 1980s proportion of the UK population who are homeowners has declined steeply as new house building has failed to keep pace with population increases.  At the same time,  Britain’s private rented property sector has been largely deregulated in a process begun under the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Prior to this UK local government authorities maintained large numbers of properties which were let to the public on long-term letting contracts.  The government’s holdings of this housing stock has been reduced greatly as many properties have sold to the public leaving the property rental sector increasingly dominated by private landlords.

The seriousness of the housing crisis in the UK is often the subject of debate in the British Parliament. In February the London MP Karen Buck claimed that nearly 750,000 properties in London have a category one hazard which includes excess cold, fire hazards, asbestos and carbon monoxide among other risks. Ms Buck also added that despite the severity of poor and dangerous housing standards in the British capital, only 250 landlords had been prosecuted for poor housing per year over the last eight years across the UK.

There have been several attempts to introduce minimum housing regulations in Parliament. In late 2015 Ms Buck proposed a “Fitness for Human Habitation Bill” to require that residential rented accommodation be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation. This proposal however failed to progress past the second reading stage and was dropped from Parliament’s schedule.

In addition to the effective lack of private rental housing standards, council authorities in the UK are also struggling to deal with complaints about poor housing. Last year in the House of Lords the Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Bakewell, revealed that in 2012-13 little over half of housing complaints resulted in a council inspection. Of the 62,818 complaints received over the time period, only 31,634 inspections were carried out. This resulted in only 1,645 improvement notices being served, 2.6% of the total number of complaints. The most common categories of hazards and faults identified in inspections were: damp and mould, excess cold, overcrowding, falling hazards and fire.

Besides having the lowest property standards, privately rented properties are the most expensive housing type in the UK. Private renters now spend an average of 47% of their income on rent compared with 23% of the income of people with a mortgage and 32% for those in the social rented sector. These findings come as 11 million people now rent privately in the UK, a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade and is set to increase to around 22 million by 2030.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Central London House Prices Underperform the Rest of the UK Falling the Most in Six Years

London price decline

House prices in London posted their largest yearly fall in almost six years in February according to the property website Rightmove. The figures represent the first annual decline in London house prices since April 2011.  It is believed that high asking prices and fears over Brexit have been putting off buyers.

While February asking prices are up compared with January, the 2.6 per cent increase is the weakest monthly gain for a February since 2009 during the height of global financial crisis.

Across the capital, house prices fell by 0.4 per cent compared with last year with the average property in London now costing  £641,116. Reversing the trend of a stronger performance compared with the rest of the UK, the London housing market under-performed the rest of the country during 2016. The latest sign of housing market weakness continues the trend set in the second half of last year. In addition to Brexit fears, tax increases on investors in the early part of the year have been suggested as factors in reducing demand for prime London real estate.

Nationally annual house price growth slowed to the weakest in almost four years this February with average property asking prices rising 2 per cent to £306,231. This represents the weakest February property performance since 2009 well below the 5 percent average gain for the month over the past seven years.

The picture across London as a whole is more mixed. Central London led the price slowdown with asking prices falling 2.1 per cent compared with February a year earlier whereas  Outer London suburbs registered a price increase of 1.4 per cent. However, comparing the relative performance between January and February, inner boroughs outperformed as owners of more expensive homes boosted the average by listing their properties for sale after the Christmas break.

Continued

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Rightmove claims that potential buyers may also have become price-sensitive as inflation erodes real incomes. The company’s director miles Shipside added: “Perhaps we’re approaching the territory where many buyers are unable or unwilling to pay what sellers are asking, given the negative combination of rises in the cost of living, tighter lending criteria, and a dose of Brexit uncertainty. Values have boomed since 2013, so it’s not surprising that upwards price pressure is running on tired legs.” 

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Nearly One-in-Three Private Rented Houses Would Fail Government Minimum Housing Standards

Private rented houses worst property type

Nearly one-in-three privately rented properties would fail the Government’s minimum property standards for social housing according to the the 2014/15 English Housing Survey. Even more alarmingly, a House of Commons research report published last year admitted that there has effectively been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England since 2006.

Although there are statutory provisions governing private landlords’ repairing and maintenance obligations, enforcement of standards in private rented housing in England and Wales is mainly carried out through the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This system is essentially a risk-assessment based regulatory model used by local authority environmental health officers. The House of Commons report states that: “since the introduction of the HHSRS in 2006, replacing the old Housing Fitness Standard, there have effectively been no minimum property standards for rented housing in England.”

Overall the private rental sector in England has worst standards of any rental property type. Twenty-nine per cent of privately rented properties would fail to meet minimum standards compared with fourteen per cent of social housing.

Despite the seriousness of the issue, several failed attempts have been made in Parliament to establish minimum housing criteria. Notably the MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck proposed a Private Members’ Bill which was adjourned on its second reading debate on 16th October 2015. The “Fitness for Human Habitation Bill” sought to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) to require that residential rented accommodation be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation,

In addition to the effective lack of private rental housing standards, local authorities are also struggling to deal with housing complaints. In 2016, the Liberal Democrat Peer, Baroness Bakewell revealed that in 2012-13, little over half of housing complaints resulted in a Local Authority inspection. Of the 62,818 complaints received over the time period, only 31,634 inspections were carried out. This resulted in only 1,645 improvement notices being served, 2.6% of the total number of complaints. The most common categories of hazards and faults identified in inspections were: damp and mould, excess cold, overcrowding, falling hazards and fire.

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Furthermore, despite having the lowest property standards, the private renting is also the most expensive housing type. Private renters now spend an average of 47% of their income on rent compared with 23% of the income of people with a mortgage and 32% of the income for those in the social rented sector.

These findings come as 11 million people now live in private rented accommodation in England, a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade and is set for further increases.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Rogue landlord who conned more than 100 tenants jailed for 45 months and ordered to pay £225,000

Housing scam Manchester
Tahir Khaliq was jailed for 45 months (Photo: National Trading Standards)

 A rogue landlord who exploited over 100 tenants has been jailed. Tahir Khaliq, 49, who ran a chain of letting agency firms from his office in Bury, Greater Manchester accepted holding deposits from multiple prospective tenants for the same same property then claimed they all failed credit checks and kept the cash.

During his trial at Bolton Crown Court, it was revealed that Khaliq also falsified home insurance claims and left many tenants living in squalid properties.

Khaliq is previously know for sharp practice. In 2012 he was the subject of a Channel Five ‘Cowboy Traders’ investigation into one of his firms Lancashire Lettings.

Perhaps his most lucrative scam was deliberately failing credit checks for prospective tenants and pocketing their holding deposits. Khaliq asked prospective tenants who wished to rent one of his properties to pay a  holding fee/deposit of £200 to £400 to take a property off the market.

However, unknown to the tenants, money was collected from several other prospective tenants all hoping to rent the same property. Once the money was collected, Khaliq informed them that they had failed credit checks and refused to refund their money. He further instructed his staff to participate in the scam ordering them to accept but never return the holding deposits.

Khaliq also arranged for fake home insurance claims to be submitted with fabricated quotes and invoices with the help of employee Paul Dickinson.

Prosecutor Andrew Thomas told the court the “blatant” insurance scam worked by submitting genuine-looking but inflated quotes from two invented firms.

The prosecutor also revealed that Khaliq used the pseudonym ‘Jack Daniels’ in these transactions in a bid to hide his identity from complainers.

Mr Thomas said: “It was blatant dishonesty. Lies were told to fob off those who wanted their money back.

“Many of the victims were vulnerable people, mainly people on low incomes who were struggling to obtain adequate housing.

“Many of the tenants were on housing benefits and not well off and very often vulnerable because of financial circumstances or other difficulties.”

“Lies were told about two things: who was living in the property and the fabrication of estimates and invoices for repair work.

“Internal emails showed Paul Dickinson was the author of the bogus documents and Mr Khaliq was involved.

“In reality the works were done by their own handymen at a fraction of the cost.”

A third scam also saw Khaliq and Dickinson collect rent for 119 properties they managed on behalf of liquidators Ernst and Young – which a court heard they failed to pass on.

Khaliq also instigated a council tax avoidance scheme perpetrated against Bury and Bolton councils. He also arranged for counterfeit accountant letters to support a £3million Co-op Bank loan application.

Khaliq admitted two counts of making an article for use in fraud, two of conspiracy to commit fraud, one of theft and three counts of fraud. He has now been sentenced to 45 months in prison and has been ordered to pay back £100,000 and pay court costs of £125,000. He was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.

During sentencing,  Judge Graeme Smith told Khaliq: “You instigated and directed several different fraudulent schemes.

“Though some were directed at institutions such as banks and insurance companies, one of them caused harm to those in a vulnerable position.”

Dickinson, of Leigh, Greater Manchester, admitted theft and six counts of fraud and was given a two year suspended sentence. He was also ordered to pay £24,280 and prosecution costs of £15,000, was disqualified from being a company director for six years and told to complete 240 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Graeme Smith told Dickinson he was suspending his sentence so he could dedicate his spare time to his 10-year-old twin sons – one of whom is seriously ill.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Private renting virtually impossible for benefit claimants

House to rent no dss

Increasing numbers of Housing Benefit claimants are being excluded from the private rental sector as the number of properties listed as ‘No DSS’ grows according to a House of Commons Briefing Paper. ‘No DSS’  (standing for “Department of Social Security” which was replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions 16 years ago) means the landlord or agent won’t rent a property to someone on housing benefit or local housing allowance.

The House of Commons reports corroborates anecdotal evidence from the Hackney-based private renter information and campaign group Digs which found only one studio flat on the market available to Housing Benefit claimants in a survey of 50 local estate agents between December 2015 and February 2016.

Despite calls from  renters rights groups to outlaw the proscription of renters receiving state benefits on discrimination grounds, the House of Commons briefing paper stated that such restrictions on Housing Benefit claimants is “unlikely to amount to direct discrimination as income and employment status are not protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.”

The paper also highlighted other factors which may be exacerbating landlords’ reluctance to let to Housing Benefit claimants which include:

  • uncertainly around the roll-out and implications of Universal Credit
  • the payment of Housing Benefit in arrears
  • restrictions in mortgage agreements and insurance requirements
  • impending tax changes resulting in landlords focusing on “less risky” tenants.

The House of Commons report was soon followed by significant coverage of the publication of a list of banned tenant types from Britain’s biggest landlord, Fergus Wilson, which included tenants receiving benefits. Mr Wilson also included workers on zero-hour contracts, single parents, battered wives and plumbers on his list of undesirable tenant types.

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In addition the the reluctance of many landlords to rent to people on benefits, mortgage lenders may also be exacerbating this situation. In 2012 for example, the buy-to-let lender, The Mortgage Works, stated that no new mortgages would be advanced to landlords whose tenants received benefits. This condition was later withdrawn after significant negative press coverage. Other property letting websites also include a search filter to screen out properties which do not allow tenants on benefits.

This situation is of such importance to large numbers of renters that the housing charity Shelter has published a guide for benefit claimants to  convince a landlord to rent to them.

 

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