Another Friday, another news round.
Blanket Benefit Bans
Do you remember the case of Rosie Keogh – the single mum who challenged a letting agents refusal to consider her as a tenant claiming discrimination?
The point is now being taken up by Shelter and the National Housing Federation who have issued a report naming agents who ban benefit tenants and telling them that they may be breaking the law.
The report says that due to the failure of the government to build enough social housing there are now an estimated 1.64m adults who rely on benefit. The majority of these are women – especially single mothers with childcare responsibilities, plus people who receive disability benefits are three times more likely to need a housing benefit top-up.
Therefore an outright ban on people on benefits is likely to be indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said:
‘No DSS’ is an outdated and outrageous example of blatant prejudice.
“Private renting is now so expensive that many people simply can’t get by without some housing benefit, even if they’re working. At Shelter we hear from families –who’ve always paid their rent – being pushed to breaking point after having the door repeatedly slammed shut on them just because they need housing benefit.
“Rejecting all housing benefit tenants is morally bankrupt, and because these practices overwhelmingly impact women and disabled people, they could be unlawful.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents social landlords, said:
“Many housing associations were set up in the 50s and 60s to house people who could find nowhere else to live due to blatant racism from private landlords and letting agents who told them ‘No Irish, no blacks, no dogs’.
“Letting agents should be ashamed that discrimination is still happening today in the form of an outright ban on people simply because they depend on housing benefit. We know this is purely based on prejudice.”
Strong words. However, landlords and letting agents do not accept this.
The case for the defence
David Cox of ARLA said that the main problem was the way that benefit is paid – in arrears rather than in advance, plus many mortgages have clauses prohibiting benefit tenants.
landlords and agents will naturally choose a tenant who can pay the rent when it is due, rather than a tenant who is always a month in arrears.
“We have called on the Government time and time again to resolve this problem. But our calls have fallen on deaf ears.
Then one of the agencies named in the report as one of the worst offenders, haart says it does arrange tenancies for benefit tenants
We do regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and currently have 112 tenancies where this is the case.
Isobel Thomson, CEO of the National Approved Letting Scheme, said:
“An assumption that there is widespread discrimination, particularly of women and disabled people on benefits, is emotive conjecture and fails to paint an accurate picture of the sector. …
“Vilification of letting agents and landlords will not resolve housing problems where the provision of sufficient social housing is at the heart of the matter.
“The complexity of the benefits system and delays in payment add to the difficulties.
“Shouldn’t we be working together to come up with solutions which could solve the ills of the sector to ensure that no vulnerable tenants are left behind, rather than castigating one section of it?”
Who landlords really are
There is a lot of emotive writing around just now describing landlords in negative terms. There are bad landlords, of course, Ben has been writing about them in his series on criminal landlord’s business practices.
However, this is only a minority. A recent study by online letting agent MakeUrMove has revealed that the majority of private landlords, 53%, only own one property and are ordinary people with normal jobs – the most common being office admin staff and people working in IT, teaching and accountancy.
Alexandra Morris, managing director of MakeUrMove, said:
“These figures shed some light on what British landlords really look like. The reality is that wealthy, multi-property owning landlords are quite rare.
“Most landlords are ordinary people working in regular jobs who are renting out a property to try and save for their retirement or to supplement their main income.
It is a misconception that most private landlords are wealthy.
Landlords selling up
The effect of all this negative publicity is naturally upsetting to these landlords, many of whom pride themselves on providing a nice home for someone who cannot afford to buy somewhere for themselves.
This combined with the increased tax charges and the ever more complex regulation is resulting in many landlords selling up.
This report describes how tenants are being given notice to quit by landlords selling up. Dorian Gonsalves, chief executive of Belvoir, said
More agents than ever before are reporting that landlords are selling up.
Although government policies such as a loss of mortgage tax relief and increased Stamp Duty on second homes is hurting landlords, they still have a choice as to how to invest their money, whereas tenants have little or no choice of where to rent due to a reduction in supply.
Concerns about the possibility of mandatory three-year tenancies may also influence the decision of landlords, and there are real concerns that there could be an increase in homelessness, as there is insufficient social housing to accommodate people.
Obviously, if landlords sell up, the buildings will still be there. However, unless they are bought by another landlord those buildings will no longer be available to rent by someone who cannot afford to buy.
Build to rent
However, it is not all bad news. It looks as if there is some good news. This article states that there are now in excess of 100,000 Build to Rent homes being built, mainly large-scale apartment developments – in key parts of London, the West Midlands and the North West – which offer economies of scale.
Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the BPF, said:
“The Build to Rent sector is evolving quickly, with significant delivery in the regions and more houses, rather than just apartments, coming forward.”
Turning to something completely different, the Law Commission has indicated that no change in the law is needed for electronic signatures to meet a statutory requirement for a signature on a document.
Lw commissioner Stephen Lewis said:
’Contract law in the UK is flexible, but some businesses are still unsure if electronic signatures would satisfy legal requirements. We can confirm that they do, potentially paving the way for much quicker transactions for businesses and consumers.’
The report says
The combination of EU law, statute and case law means that, under the current law, an electronic signature is capable of meeting a statutory requirement for a signature if an authenticating intention can be demonstrated. This is not limited to a particular type of electronic signature.
’Furthermore, it is our view that an electronic signature inserted with the intention of authenticating a document would be sufficient to satisfy a statutory requirement that the document must be executed “under hand”.
However, the commission stresses that its proposals are provisional and will be finalised following public consultation. It also proposes that further steps should be taken to clarify and build certainty in the law.
- The London council named as bringing the most prosecutions against landlords and agents is named as Camden, followed by Southwark and Newham
- An analysis for Shawbrook Bank has predicted that there will be a fall in buy to let until 2021 after which there will be moderate growth until 2023.
- Generation Rent launches an ‘end section 21’ campaign
- There is a new accreditation scheme for landlords of short lets
- Nearly Legal reports on a new First Tier Tribunal case which confirms the strictness of the time limit for appealing rent increases under the statutory notice procedure.
Newsround will be back next week.