Quite rightly there has been a lot of discussion recently about the fact that people on benefits are struggling to find homes to rent from within the private sector. The main reason for this of course is that there is a dearth of social housing available in the country and the private rented sector is fast becoming the ONLY sector. This blog has been prompted by the fresh publicity today as Zoopla (an on-line property portal) have issued a ban on advertising No DSS. I completely agree that such discriminatory practices should be discouraged but will banning the words really make a difference?
I feel this is a simplistic approach that completely misses the point – this country needs more housing. Consecutive governments have failed to build the new homes needed and ignored all the warning signs. Homelessness has grown, Home Ownership has shrunk, council homes have become relics from the past and the result is a massive problem that no one seems to be facing up to.
It is very easy to blame and shame private landlords for discriminating against people on benefits. Just because you need help to pay the rent, doesn’t make you a bad tenant. Anyone that judges people just by this criteria alone and fails to look at the overall person deserves to be named and shamed. But the truth is landlords and agents ‘select’ tenants and often have several to pick and choose from.
Most of my landlords are individuals with just the one property to Let. This may be an investment, it may be they are landlords by accident – having to move away because of work or family commitments and wanting to keep or not be able to sell their property. Some Buy To Let investors have rules and restrictions from their mortgage lenders, stating they cannot rent to people on benefits. Maybe we should look at changing this practice before rushing to judgment.
My point is, if you are letting your home out to strangers, you will ask your agent to select the best possible tenant and you will be looking for the lowest possible risks. Selecting the most needy tenant may be a noble act but it makes little commercial sense. Therefore, landlords will continue to discriminate, in some way shape or form. Someone earning £40,000 a year is less likely to fall behind on their rent than someone earning £10,000. Someone with pets or children is going to make more mess than a single occupant - usually. I cannot see how you can force a private landlord to select a tenant without discriminating. I also think if this course of action is pursued it will deter many private landlords from continuing in this business and certainly prevent new ones coming forward.
I like to look at each and every applicant as an individual and would rather not make judgements. However, I want to select tenants for my landlords who will take care of their property and pay their rent on time. Previous references are far more important to me than what someone does for a living. If there hadn’t been such a debacle over housing benefit payments and Universal Credit then maybe this problem wouldn’t be so bad. It just seems far too easy to blame the landlords and not consider the bigger picture.