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You may have noticed that everyday there is a new article written or report released regarding a rise in housing benefit claims. Until I started working in Newport in the lettings business, I for one did not take too much notice. I understood we were in a recession and times were difficult for many, forcing people to claim ‘DSS’, but I read the stories and carried on with my day.
Now I take several calls a day from people looking for housing that would accept benefits. I have spoken to people who “just aren’t working” with no real reason as to why. We are all aware that people who ‘play the system’ do exist, however, I have come to realise that not all people claiming benefits should be stereotyped and tarred with the same brush. Many have found themselves forced into a situation where they have no other option but to receive help until they eventually find themselves in better circumstances.
When speaking to other agencies and landlords, they all have strong views about renting to people who rely on benefits from the government to house them. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it will always remain a touchy subject. The fact is people do stereotype, a lot of the time without even realising it. There are now thousands of people on benefits looking for homes and the demand for renting in the private sector is only going to escalate. Only this morning a report was released explaining how buying a home will become harder for first-time buyers, as mortgage companies will only lend an amount that they are sure the lenders can pay back easily. This effectively will make it harder for ‘DSS’ tenants to be considered.
Yes, some councils have started a scheme to pay landlords if they take tenants off council waiting lists; Barnet inNorth Londonare offering up to £3,200 to private landlords. Many councils are trying the same scheme, however, it will take time to get landlords on board and to put it into place. A new report has shown that 10,000 more families that are working are claiming benefits to help pay rent and since 2009 there has been a rise of 89% more in-work claimant families.
At our letting agency in Newport we are constantly getting prospective tenants through our doors and calling us, telling us about the bias they have experienced from other letting agencies. They simply turn them down without even asking about their situation. We pride ourselves on finding out people’s circumstances before we judge them the very second they say “DSS.”
The benefit system is facing the biggest upheaval in recent times and some might say landlords should see this as a positive factor. Whilst the economy has taken a turn for the worst, banks have collapsed and unemployment has soared, the rental market has boomed.
We at Luscombe & Co have our own personal system for referencing tenants; a process that ensures we ask the right questions when speaking to prospective clients. It may sound silly but you need to be nosey, find out as much as you can:
- Why are they moving?
- Where are they now?
- How long have they been renting?
- How many people will be moving in?
- What benefit are they on?
- How long have they been unemployed/ receiving benefits?
- What’s wrong with their current property?
And so on, the more questions you ask the better chance you will have of finding quality tenants. Whether they are receiving benefits or not, by asking these questions you’re not intruding, you are in fact protecting your own interests but not stereotyping at first sight. If someone was working you would want to know where they worked and over what period, what their role was and you would also ask for wage slips, the same system applies. Many people are working and receiving rent top ups and some on disability, so take the time to ask and you might just find yourself a long term quality tenant.