Updated: Nov 18, 2021
The issue of landlords refusing to let to ‘DSS’ tenants is a divisive one that has attracted the attention of the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Heather Wheeler. Ms Wheeler recently chaired a round-table meeting with members of the National Landlords Association to discuss this very matter.
The NLA wanted to make it clear to the government. They believe the main reason landlords are reluctant to let properties to tenants on benefits is because the Local Housing Allowance rate is insufficient to cover real market rents, which are underestimated in many cases. This causes some landlords to refuse DSS tenants because of a perceived lack of affordability.
Fergus Wilson Bans Tenants on Benefits
There are plenty of landlords out there who refuse to let properties to tenants claiming benefits. Britain’s biggest landlord, Fergus Wilson, is one of them. He’s very outspoken in his views and has said many times he won’t allow DSS tenants in his properties.
Wilson is not alone. Many landlords refuse to rent to benefit tenants by default. This makes it very difficult for benefit tenants to find suitable accommodation.
Mortgage Lenders Say No to Benefits Tenants
It can’t all be dropped at the feet of landlords. A Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry found that many mortgage lenders include restrictive clauses in their terms and conditions, which prevent landlords from renting properties to tenants claiming benefits. Since the findings of the inquiry, some lenders have confirmed that these onerous restrictions have been removed.
Affordability Issues for Benefit Tenants
Of course, landlords are perfectly within their rights to refuse a tenant on the basis of affordability, whether they are claiming benefits or not. But the NLA says landlords should assess each individual case on its merits rather than issuing a blanket ban in the manner of Fergus Wilson. Property websites Rightmove and Zoopla have also followed suit; both of them now recommend that landlords follow NLA guidance on the matter.
The NLA says landlords should look closely at each individual case. Not all tenants rely solely on benefits. Some have other income or families willing to help them out. Look at the individual’s circumstances in detail before refusing to offer them a tenancy agreement.
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