Not a regulation qury as such but…

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    we have a lot of private tenants who rent from various letting agents in the borough but a lot of what we hear is “they won’t take people on HB”.

    My staff often say, and indeed more so with the advent on HB, that the letting agents don’t need to know if they are on housing benefit. Obviously some agents do credit checks etc and so will know anyway but we have had a lanldord on the phone today saying that we are acting illegally by advising claimants that they don’t need to tell the agents if they are on HB and being paid directly.

    Obviously with LHA and direct payments coming in next month, this is even more of an issue and I was just wondering what you all think of the whys and wherefores?

    Many thanks


    Obviously a landlord wants to ensure that he is going to have his rent paid and will make whatever checks he thinks necessary to confirm that someone can afford his property. Some landlords I have spoken to don’t like taking on benefit clts, not becasue they consider them any more high risk than anyone else, but because they have little chance of recovering arrears if they arise. If someone is employed they feel they have more chance of getting their money back.

    As far as informing landlords, we have a duty of confidentiality to clts and can’t advise l/l’s unless we have the claimants permission. If someone is a prospective tenant then it is up to the landlord to check references etc. If an existing tenant, then as long as he pays his rent, how he finances this has nothing to do with the l/l. I’d be interestedto know what law he thinks we are breaking?

    John Boxall

    There have been issues over insurance with Insurance Companies refusing to cover properties let to benefit claimants.

    This was being looked at by the Social Exclusion unit and I dont know what the outcome was.

    One agent I have seen, not in this area, would accept benefit claimants so long as they paid the six months rent in advance (!)

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

    Wilkins Micawber, Ch12 David Copperfield

    Julian Hobson

    I think this is a very interesting topic and raises some interesting Social Policy issues. Unfortunately receipt of HB is equated with unwillingness, unable, unlikely to pay. However receipt of HB means nothing of the sort.

    Even if receipt of HB can be a proxy for those eventualities it isn’t the receipt of HB that is the problem !

    HB is a means tested benefit available to in work / out of work / pensioner customers and to tar them all with the same brush is unfair and unreasonable. Neither can a L/L predict what the financial circumstances of his tenant are likely to be in the future.

    Many of the L/L’s that hold the views expressed above are actually commenting about the individuals who in their experience have caused them problems. In many cases it is the attitude of the individual to their responsibilities generally that means that they are in the position of having to claim HB to pay their rent, it isn’t the receipt of HB that is the problem.

    If you are a L/L that has a particular sort of property then inevitably you will attract customer on HB, not because that is the only property they can access (although this might in reality be the case if excluded by the other L/L’s), more that those that would otherwise pay their own rent would prefer to spend their money more wisely.

    It is clearly a L/L’s choice as to who he rents to and regardless of receipt of HB much of that decision will be based on ability to pay. Virtually every contractual arrangement I can think of includes demonstrating in some way that you can pay or have paid before you get the goods.

    It is really about assessing risk and perhaps those L/L’s that won’t consciously let to those receiving HB are not prepared to take the risk. It is their choice after all.

    Perhaps the only bit missing from this so far, is the extent to which authorities have contributed to L/L’s not wanting to take the risk (delays, errors, etc). What will be interesting under LHA is whether the balance is tipped and whether the position you describe gets better or worse from the point of view of the claimant/tenant.


    I think Julian’s post sums up how many of us would feel about the situation regarding landlords.
    At our LHA fora we have had a couple of landlords saying that they won’t accept tenants on HB – but they amongst the landlords who have a high proportion of tenants on HB so we will have to wait and see.

    However, some LA staff have an equally poor opinion of claimants, so it is hardly surprising that this is reflected in some landlords opinions (one of our other landlords told me that he sees this as a great opportunity and wants to know when the LHA rates will be published – wonder if his rents will be more in line with them soon?).

    However, in reply to Sharon’s original question, we have had the same sort of comment from Agents / Landlords here in the past. As Simon suggests, the question of which law are they referring to will usually clear the matter up, as if they have a genuine grievance, then it can be addressed accordingly. 8)

    Julian Hobson

    Some of the Landlord evaluation (final bit – scroll down) is interesting.


    I have had letting agents tell me they won’t take benefit claimants unless HB can be paid direct. When LLs have a choice of tenants (as they have in this area) it is a problem. Me – I’ll just classify them all as vulnerable and continue as we are now đŸ˜†


    Sharon, you would be acting unlawfully by letting them know a claimant is on HB. So ignore the Estate Agent. Nor should a credit check reveal if the claimant is on HB.

    HB is not payment of rent, it is to top up the income of the claimant to help them pay their rent. LHAs re-enforce that policy intention. A landlord does not need to know all of your income sources, nor should they know those of people on HB.

    This discrimination against HB claimants is based on

    * historic delays from processing claims for benefit
    * overpayments being unfairly recovered from landlords
    * lack of information from local authorities

    Almost all of these factors have been removed; the law was changed to ensure that landlord recoveries only took place when they were morally culpable and where a decision to recover overpaid benefits was made – more detail than “change of circs” is required. LAs are also a lot quicker at processing claims for benefit.

    Paying (almost) all new claimants direct should ensure that last element of discrimination is removed as the landlord will not need to know who is or is not on benefit.


    Sean, you obviously live in an area where there is an excess of accommodation over tenants. Here it is the other way round and when agents ask prospective tenants how they are going to afford/pay the rent (they all take up references) it does tend to put our claimants at a disadvantage.


    I remember similar arguments concerning the pre ’96 scheme (showing my age). Where landlords argued properties for benefit claimants were difficult to find and therefore, even for non vulnerable claimants there was no suitable alternative accommodation (SAA) so no restriction could apply.

    This was easily defended, based on the number of new claims from Private Tenants, and we also introduced a question about whether or not tenants paid a deposit. There was a sufficiently large number of claimants who obtained properties without deposits, therefore proving there was an active market.

    I left that authority to join one that did not measure the cost of SAA, did not monitor deposits and always restricted to RO levels. It was my first realisation that LAs can break the law on what I thought were even simple things.

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