A disabled Brighton woman says she is facing homelessness because no landlords will accept housing benefit.
Kellie Fisher, 37, is being evicted from the flat she has lived in for six years because the landlord is selling up.
But a desperate search over several weeks for a new home for her and her terrier Sadie hasn’t thrown up a single flat which will take her on – with agents telling her housing benefit is the issue.
Now, she is facing having to rehome her pet and move into temporary accommodation.
Ms Fisher said: “I feel like I’m being discriminated against. Barriers have been put up to stop me getting housed.
“I have got good references, I have got guaranteed housing benefit because I’m on disability allowance, I’m going to be lent a deposit, but they take one look at housing benefit, and my dog and they say no way.
“I phoned every single agency daily for a month and a half, and sent emails out, I’ve even put fliers in shop windows, but they’re all saying we sometimes get something, but it doesn’t happen often.
“I have been classed as vulnerable so the council will house me if I don’t find anything, but I’d have to lose my dog and possibly be in a flat off the ground floor where I can’t get up and down the stairs.”
Kellie, who suffers from anxiety, depression and limited mobility thanks to back and neck issues, was working for Bupa when she moved into her current flat, so housing benefit was not an issue.
But she has been on disability benefit since 2010, and says Sadie and her local support network are essential if she does not deteriorate further.
The agencies are telling her the issue is private landlords can’t get insurance if their tenants are on housing benefit.
However, local estate agent Paul Bonett said that many of his clients are happy to take housing benefit if it covers their costs, particularly in circumstances such as Kellie’s.
He said: “We don’t have an issue with housing benefit in our firm. If someone’s on housing benefit with a disability they’re probably going to be able to pay the rent for a long time.
“But the housing benefit rate might not cover the high market rate in Brighton, so it’s down to whether landlords will accept a lower rent.
“A lot of them can’t, but we have had one or two who are prepared to take a lower rent because they don’t need or want to cream it off the top – as long as it pays their mortgage and the other costs of letting a property.
“It’s a complicated issue.
“With pets, if you have a choice of a tenant with one or without, landlords will choose those without because they can cause accidental damage and more wear and tear.
“One of the things she could use is social networks – using Facebook is a great way of maybe connecting with people who aren’t after the high rent.”
Kellie can afford up to £725 a month and she needs to move by the end of the week. If you know of a flat which Kellie can rent, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had the same problem. My wife is also disabled. We were in a two bed housing association flat with my wife’s son. We then had a daughter but we’re told by BHCC that there was no way we would get a 3 Bed so we went private. Although I work full-time, I am on a low wage and in the end it took us two years to find a property where the landlord was kind enough to take a chance on us. We had previously enquired about 30+ properties where the doors were shut in our face because we had to claim top-ups benefits.
Been there myself in 2001/2. And similar disabilities too.
Had to give up two cats. Go into B & B. Huge trauma, spine surgery, extreme stress and problems from brutal BHCC officers with, ironically, more help from the landlord wanting his flat back after 15 years before I eventually got a suitable council flat. Lucky me.
But the trauma persists even now with constant PTSD type nightmares…
That is what the housing benefit prejudice is doing to vulnerable people – disabled, elderly most of all because of the trapped state and lack of freedom that comes with disability and old age.
And this Govt will reduce the level of suitable council accommodation and Housing Association accommodation even further with its gleeful sell-offs.
I had exactly the same problem as I too was on housing benefit and had a dog, and no one would consider me, this highlights the growing problem in Brighton, and it long overdue for some direct action, it is wrong that people are falsed into homelessness or living in vans or boats, in what is supposed to be a civilised society
Anne Meadows is the new Chair of Housing and perhaps should be approached and asked to revive the Private Sector Housing Forum that the last Labour Administration abolished in a fit of pique when their patronage was abused with some independent ideas and thinking that didn’t come from them.
I’m not disabled, but as a working single parent. The stigma and discrimination from letting agents is truly shocking & disgusting. Before I had a child I worked full time and lived in shares.I’ve never missed a months rent in my life! Unfortunately my relationship broke down and had to find a home . . . I spent 18 months searching it was truly soul destroying and kept getting the same ” don’t excerpt benefits” “The landlord only wants professionals” I responded “I am a processional . . ” the agent said “only professionals professionals”! The council were no help treating me like a teenage scrounger who got herself pregnant on a night out! I’m in my 30s . . I nearly had to give up my job and move to another town and put into council housing. I ebbed up borrowing 6 months rent, suddenly no questions asked. . I’ve never been unemployed. Brighton is my home. I’ve never missed any payments of anything! So when I question letting agents they said it’s because people on HB are unreliable . . How on earth can they generalise that much. Surely references will tell you that. There is a huge difference between someone like me on HB and some one who makes it thier lifetime goal to abuse the system. I’m so upset by this unfairness. It also effects lots of couples with a child who work bloody hard but just need a HB top up as they have to take time to care for a child. B&H lettings agents should be ashamed of themselves there will be none left here to do any work. And I’m employed by BHCC. Very sad.
Letting agents are in business to make money by providing a service. To refuse this service to a select group of people smacks of discrimination, no matter how you try to justify it. Why should Miss Fisher have to resort to social media with such an important issue as finding a home? I bet Mr Bonett has not offered his letting agent services to help her. Rents to high for Miss Fisher? It is obvious, after seeing many listings advertised by letting agents in her price bracket, that the problem is that she is in receipt of benefit. After all, the shutters come down the second you say ‘housing benefit’ either before rent cost is mentioned or after when rent cost had already been established as not a problem. It is unacceptable and disgraceful that this widespread practise is preventing vulnerable people like Miss Fisher from finding a home. In this economic climate any one of us could suddenly lose a job or become ill.
IM completely dumbfounded by the complete irresponsibility of agents and the council of Brighton and Hove, to let this person out in the cold, by the end of this week.
I’ve had my time of life fighting with the housing and benefits robots, so I understand where this lady is coming from. Im really hoping she will find somewhere that she and her dog will be happy but most of all safe. I just wish I could help but im no longer in B&H im out in the sticks in Shoreham otherwise I’d try and seriously help you out, I hope you find somewhere very soon, that isn’t a crap hole. Regards Nathan
Just a note to say that now, August 2017, Things are exactly the same…