The RLA has attended high level talks at Downing Street on ending discrimination against housing benefits claimants.
Policy manager John Stewart was at Number 10 yesterday to discuss the issue of ‘no DSS’ advertisements – just months after the government announced letting adverts which potentially discriminate against would-be tenants on housing benefit should end.
The RLA has been campaigning for change for some time and has worked with high street bank Nat West – which announced it would lift restrictions preventing landlords with its buy-to-let mortgages renting to benefits tenants earlier this year.
Metro Bank has now announced it will follow suit, with Zoopla already pledging to remove ‘no DSS’ advertisements from their sites.
Yesterday’s roundtable at Downing Street led by Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP was organised as part of the government’s pledge to tackle the stigma experienced by tenants on benefits and was leading industry bodies and companies.
The government has said that while the vast majority of the private rental sector provide a fair and professional service, the government has been clear that ‘No DSS’ has no place in a modern housing market and is determined to introduce a blanket ban.
The RLA has reminded landlords they should not impose blanket bans – but said the situation remains a complex one – and that more is needed to address issues of affordability in the sector.
RLA research found the average amount owed by Universal Credit tenants in rent arrears increased by half in a 12 month period, from just over £1,600 in 2017 to almost £2,400 in 2018.
This has left some landlords feeling wary when it comes to lending to benefits tenants – with other landlords’ hands tied due to mortgage conditions.
Further research by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA found 53 per cent of landlords reported that the gap between the Local Housing Allowance and local market rent was more than £50 a month. Almost 25% said the gap was over £100 a month.
John Stewart said: “The RLA has been working tirelessly to help landlords who do want to rent to tenants in receipt of benefits, but who have been restricted by mortgage conditions, something which is now being addressed by the industry.
“The real issue is affordability. The RLA believes the government now needs to end the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, which has left benefit payments bearing little resemblance to market rents.
A step forward
In statement released after yesterday’s meeting Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said: “Regardless of financial circumstances, everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home and I have been determined to end the discrimination those on benefits face.
“Today’s meeting was yet another step forward; marking an important shift in making the private rented sector fairer for all – and I am thrilled that Metro Bank have decided to join us in ending the stigma surrounding tenants on housing benefit.
“I am grateful to those companies for taking the time to discuss this issue and look forward to us continuing to work together.”
Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, Will Quince added: “We are working to bring the sector together to tackle this issue, ensuring everyone has the same opportunity to access safe and secure housing.
“It’s encouraging that we’re already seeing positive changes being made in the industry, and we continue to encourage landlords and agents to consider tenants on an individual basis.”