Plans to end blanket bans on renting to benefits tenants have been announced by government today.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler MP has said letting adverts which potentially discriminate against would-be tenants on housing benefit should end.
She says she will be meeting with industry representatives, including the RLA to talk about the best way forward to clamp down on blanket exclusions – with a view to stopping them altogether.
The RLA has been campaigning for change for some time and has worked with high street bank Nat West – which has today announced it will lift restrictions preventing landlords with its buy-to-let mortgages renting to benefits tenants.
The RLA has reminded landlords they should not impose blanket bans – but the situation remains a complex one.
RLA research has found that the average amount owed by Universal Credit tenants in rent arrears increased by half, from just over £1,600 in 2017 to almost £2,400 in 2018 – which can leave landlords feeling wary.
And some landlords’ hands are tied when it comes to renting to benefits tenants.
Further research work by RLA mortgage partners 3mc found around two thirds of the largest buy-to-let mortgage lenders do not allow landlords to rent property to tenants receiving housing benefit.
And work by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA has found that 53 per cent of landlords reported that the gap between the Local Housing Allowance and local market rent is more than £50 a month. Almost 25% said the gap is over £100 a month.
John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA said: “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.”
As part of today’s announcement Ms Wheeler also announced plans to make more than £19.5m available to councils to help people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, access a PRS home.
The cash – which is coming from the government’s £100m Rough Sleeping Strategy, will be shared among 54 projects, with the government saying it will help vulnerable people secure their own tenancy through support such as paying deposits or putting down the first months’ rent.