Denied the right to rent

the accessibility barrierWith social housing increasingly hard to find, more and more people are being forced into private renting.

But landlords and letting agents are sometimes unwilling to let out their properties to certain groups, such as:

  • families with young children
  • anyone with difficulty providing references
  • anyone without a good credit history
  • anyone on housing benefits or local housing allowance.

When these groups are locked out of private renting, they’re left with few places to turn to for a home.

And this is only likely to get worse: more and more people are chasing every rented home, and the Government’s welfare reforms have limited the number of houses those receiving benefits can live in.

We need urgent action to open up private renting, to make sure there’s a home out there for everyone.

Lack of choice

Landlords and letting agents can refuse to rent out their properties to people they don’t think will make ‘good tenants’. Unfortunately, the decision will often be based on factors that are beyond the control of prospective tenants.

For example, a landlord may not rent to someone on housing benefit because of the time it takes for payments to be made. Or a tenant may not have enough of a credit history to determine whether they can afford the rent.

In some cases, landlords may be prevented from renting to tenants on housing benefit because of rules placed on them by their mortgage provider.

The shortfall between levels of housing benefit paid and the cost of rent limits the number of homes that are available even further. And those houses that are left are more likely to be in a bad condition.

Finally, this lack of choice is made worse by the high cost of moving into a private rented home. With upfront deposits sometimes costing thousands of pounds – and hundreds of pounds required for letting agency fees – many people can’t pull together enough money to move into a private rented home. Others will struggle to move on if they end up in a home that is unsuitable for them or their family.

Shelter's response

We believe that more must be done to improve the choices available to private renters on low incomes. We call on the Government to:

  • Provide guarantees to landlords that housing benefit will be paid directly to them, if a tenant struggles to manage their finances under Universal Credit.
  • Reconsider whether tenants should be able to choose for their local housing allowance to be paid directly to their landlord.
  • Ensure that housing benefit paid to private tenants reflects rises in rent, so that tenants can afford to live in decent privately rented homes.
  • Provide tenancy sustainment services in every local authority to support landlords and prevent problems that lead to eviction, such as antisocial behaviour and rent arrears.
  • Encourage banks to change their policies so that buy-to-let landlords can rent out their properties to renters on housing benefit if they wish to.

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