Moves agreed to tackle rogue landlords who bar tenants on benefits

Councillors have backed moves to try to prevent private landlords from discriminating against people on benefits.

Although discrimination is against the law, research by community union Acorn suggested that landlords told 61 per cent of private renters in Brighton and Hove that they would not take tenants on benefits.

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee voted to provide guidance, making it clear that “no DSS” policies were illegal.

And they condemned conditions such as asking for six months’ rent in advance and requiring a homeowner as guarantor.

Officials may be asked to look into ways of extending a scheme under which the council acts as a guarantor.

If the council brings in a landlord accreditation scheme, anyone signing up would be required to accept tenants on benefits.

The committee also agreed that the council should provide advice and direct people to information to help them challenge discrimination.

At Hove Town Hall last night (Wednesday 22 June), Labour councillor Gill Williams said that women and disabled people were “disproportionally affected” by private landlords banning benefit claimants from their properties.

She said that this broke the Equalities Act 2010 and that the housing charity Shelter had taken legal action on behalf of people with “protected characteristics” to expose illegal discrimination.

Councillor Williams said: “This is really worrying to us, given the current cost of living crisis and the crisis we face in homelessness.

“They take all the forms from prospective tenants, who rely on benefits to pay their rents, who are routinely asked to provide a high-earning guarantor or are asked to pay … up to six months’ rent in advance. It’s impossible.”

Green councillor Martin Osborne said that landlords were getting around the legislation by indirectly discriminating against benefit claimants.

He hoped that a new government white paper would lead to a clampdown on indirect discrimination but he added that action was needed now.

Conservative councillor Anne Meadows said that rents were high in Brighton and Hove because of demand, with many people in lower-paid jobs moving to Shoreham and Worthing.

She said that the Equalities Act already covered discrimination and needed enforcing, adding: “You’re looking at discrimination to be forbidden. It already is.”

Acorn held a protest outside Hove Town Hall

Councillor Meadows said that merging benefits and making one payment under universal credit was a problem for some landlords, with direct payment to landlords a better option.

Green councillor Jamie Lloyd said that he was one of the only homeowners in his friendship group and had seen friends “jump hurdles” in their efforts to rent properties.

He said: “These are hard-working people and a lot of them earn quite a lot more than me but I act as a guarantor on countless occasions.

“I get these impertinent calls at any time of the day from estate agents saying, ‘do this, do that, or this person can’t move in.’ I think it’s extremely rude.”

Outside the town hall before the meeting, Acorn members protested about bans on tenants on benefits and lobbied councillors.

Acorn member Dan Williams said: “Passing this motion says the council are openly, strongly against any kind of discrimination and they will crack down on any rogue landlords and letting agents to stop them from doing this and support tenants getting into difficulty with court cases.

“We also have a pledge for landlords to sign, saying they will end their discrimination against people on benefits.”

All eight Green and Labour councillors on the committee voted for the proposals, with the two Conservatives abstaining.

  1. Louise H Reply

    They are wasting their time as homeless people will fail the credit check and most mortgage companies also prohibit this.

  2. Herbert Lyon Reply

    Having seen a great many wrecked properties if I was a Landlord I’d want a guarantor, next thing Acorn will want the keys to the Landords car !!

    • Gromit Reply

      …and their first born child!

  3. Mark G Reply

    Are they expecting private landlords to pick up social tenants, on SRS conditions and rents?

    This is the responsibility of the council not private individuals who happen to have made a property available for rent.
    This private contract should satisfy and be fair to both the landlord and tenant.

    The landlord should be free to select the tenant they feel most comfortable handing over the keys to their £250k asset to, in return for a tiny deposit.
    After all, this is a selection process, with 1x house, and very likely to be 20-50 interested potential tenants.

    Let’s be honest, the new shelter/acorn/GR driven rules are stopping landlords taking any risk with new tenants. Only the tenants with perfect credit, home owner guarantors etc will be successful. This was an own goal.

    SRS will need to up their game and provide more homes, and need to stop pushing their legal responsibility onto private individuals, and stop pushing the blame for the problem onto the poeple offering a home for somebody.remember, shelter has never provided a home for anybody.

    • Gromit Reply

      Politely put!

  4. Jane L Reply

    The council is ridiculous. All a landlord has to do is to look at a tenant’s bank statement or credit reference to establish if they are on benefits and then reject them on the basis that they preferred someone else as they applied sooner or they had a nicer jumper. Also when there is a shortage of accommodation why should people on housing benefit get any priority over accommodation. It should be people that work so there are more people working and paying tax in the city to fund these benefits. The population of the city has grown and we should be encouraging people to live here that can fund the economy otherwise all the people on benefits will end up having to get jobs.

  5. Redless Reply

    So for the last few years Central and Local Governments have attacked private landlords from all directions resulting in fewer properties to rent, which of course has pushed up rents too. This invariably means that a social tenant can’t afford the PRS so why waste anyone’s time and make everybody (including the tenants) jump through hoops. As S21 is being abolished I absolutely want a guarantor with every new tenant as well as several months up front.

  6. The_Maluka Reply

    I must be going gaga in my dotage, if I read this correctly a rogue landlord is now defined as one who refuses to take tenants who are unable to pay the rent! If this is so then the rogue landlords will be forced to self eliminate. Perhaps we should call this Darwin’s theory of unnatural selection.

  7. The Big Blue Reply

    Hilarious! The Greens who campaigned for years to tax landlords out of business are now crying about how their ‘friends’ have to ‘jump through hoops’ to rent a house! Who knew, eh Greens?!?! It’s all come as a huge surprise to you, has it? Thick as mince and no sense of irony.

  8. Flowerpower Reply

    Many landlords use to house benefit tenants. This is what changed
    Government cutting the housing allowance to way below market rents.
    If tenant loses any benefit due to not working enough hrs its first taken from the housing element.
    U credit was a big one,many tenants stopped passing the rent to landlords.
    U credit no backdate payments. You think you will rec X for rent but get much less as tenant done overtime. Tenant does not make up x with overtime money.
    Tenant less likely to be able to heat house causing black mould. Landlord is blamed
    Due to not many landlords able to accept benefit tenant if you need to serve notice you have togo to court.
    Courts are not fit for purpose massive delays and cost for landlord.
    Organisations who support tenants even when they spend all the rent and trash properties.
    A benefit tenant now is a high risk.
    The hatred encouraged by organisations and discrimination by government who made no secret that they intend to wipe out the PRS. This started with Section 24, licencing, fines of 30000
    Regs galore.
    Not to mention landlords being accused of robbing the public purse.
    Sort out all these problems and you will see the PRS return to the benefit market.

    • Mark G Reply

      Not to mention landlords being accused of robbing the public purse…

      That’s an interesting point.
      Tho emergency accommodation costs much much more than servicing a private tenancy.
      LLs now are accused of being rogue if they don’t accept money from this, let’s be honest, very precarious and unreliable source. Payments can be reduced or stopped for a plethora of reasons, and these only need to be suspected, not proven.

      If direct payments are made, any deemed overpayments are extracted from the LL who’s left to try to get the payments from the tenant who is instantly in arrears.

      LLs cant win, damned if they do, damned if they don’t. So do what’s best for you and select the lowest risk tenant from the 30x tenants interested in the available property when it’s available. And one you like!

      Most LLs know within 30 seconds of meeting a tenant whether they can work with them. It’s a 2x way business relationship in the PRS and liking the tenant, and their attitude, is paramount.

  9. s Reply

    It is a shame that a person with disabilities and mobility problems can not have housing.

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