Must I let to benefit claimants? Am I missing a market?

Can I refuse to let to tenants receiving benefits - or is this a mistake?

Question

Can I refuse to let to tenants receiving benefits - or is this a mistake?

Answer

According to a paper published this week in the House of Commons briefing report ‘“Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit Claimants?” yes, you are perfectly within your rights as a private landlord to refuse to let your property to a benefit claimant, and to do so would not be classed as discrimination.

Being in receipt of benefits is not one of the ‘protected characteristics’ identified in the Equality Act 2010, despite the question being the centre of a number of disputes in recent years.

The controversial report makes reference to the concerns that Housing Benefit is now paid directly to tenants, instead of to landlords as well as the issue that the figures that are supplied by Local Authorities may not be sufficient to meet market rents in high-rent areas.

However, despite the fact that you legally can refuse to let your property to a tenant receiving help from the government, you shouldn't necessarily discount doing so...

Across the UK, 4,739,427 people receive housing benefits. that's a huge market that you could be missing our on if you choose to mark your property advert with the 'No DSS' stamp that is so common on the portals.

With the introduction of Universal Credit, the process of letting to tenants on benefits is changing, but it doesn't have to be a painful process! Universal Credit will definitely change things in the short term, and whilst the system finds its feet and tenants get used to being in full control of their own money there may be some bumps in the road, however the local authority housing system is reliant on private landlords, so there will be plenty of support - with councils doing all they can to assist landlords, helping ensure that there will always be a selection of properties open to housing benefit tenants.

Depending on where your property is, you should seriously consider the options about renting to tenants who receive benefits. there are many areas in the UK where more housing benefit tenants are housed in private properties than council-owned homes, so much is done to support private landlords in these areas. The areas in the UK with the highest percentage of claimants reliant on the private rental market are:

  • Blackpool – 72% of the benefits receiving population (13,613 claimants)
  • Torbay – 68% of the benefits receiving population (9,114 claimants
  • Tendring – 65% of the benefits receiving population (8,041 claimants)
  • Castle Point – 63% of the benefits receiving population (2,786 claimants)
  • Bournemouth – 62% of the benefits receiving population (10,454 claimants)

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