Housing

Government starts crackdown on landlords who won't let to people on benefits

The news comes as NatWest announced that it will scrap its own restrictions on offering buy-to-let mortgages to landlords who let to people on benefits

The government has revealed plans to end discrimination against potential tenants on housing benefits, signalling an end to landlords’ “No DSS” adverts.

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler announced on Friday that Whitehall officials will meet with mortgage providers, landlord associations, tenant groups and property websites in a bid to ban the practice.

The discrimination has seen tenants on benefits become the minority in the private rental market. Just 889,000 claimants out of 4.5 million households living in rented accommodation while half of landlords surveyed say they wouldn’t take on a tenant on benefits.

Campaigners have already inspired the government to step in while also convincing NatWest to change course. The high-street bank announced that it would be axing restrictions preventing landlords on their buy-to-let mortgages from renting to would-be tenants on benefits.

The decision was made following a review of its buy-to-let policies with the bank also revealing that it will extend their maximum length of an assured shorthold tenancy from 12 to 36 months. The move aims to provide more security for tenants – and security is much needed with the loss of a private sector rented home still the leading cause of homelessness.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, has welcomed the news.

“It’s good news the government has heard our calls for urgent action to clamp down on private landlords, letting agents, mortgage lenders and property websites that are discriminating against people on housing benefit,” she said. “We also very much welcome NatWest’s decision to scrap their ‘no benefits’ policy. Other mortgage lenders and businesses must now follow suit.

“Banning these potentially unlawful and discriminatory adverts is only the first step. We need to make sure the discrimination itself ends altogether. We look forward to hearing more details about the government’s plans.”

Wheeler also announced that measures to tackle rough sleeping too with £19.5 million to be shared among 54 projects across England to help councils secure tenancies for vulnerable people by covering deposits or their first months’ rent.

The money has been sourced from the £100m Rough Sleeping Strategy fund that bids to ensure no one is sleeping on the streets in a decade.

“I want everyone to have the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life – at the heart of which is ensuring everyone can find a safe and secure home to call their own,” said Wheeler. “This funding will make a huge difference in opening up the private rented sector to people who need it and give them the chance to rebuild their lives. I will also be meeting key stakeholders to tackle the practice of ‘No DSS’, to underline the need for immediate change.”

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