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Housing

40% of landlords say they would not rent out their property to people on benefits

The practice, which is unlawful discrimination, has been described as “disgusting and immoral” by campaigners.

4 in 10 landlords say they would refuse to rent to someone receiving benefits. Image: Andrea Piacquadio

Almost half of Landlords have told the government they would refuse to rent their property to people receiving benefits, which is unlawful.

Around four in 10 of the 9,000 landlords quizzed in the official English Private Landlord Survey said they wouldn’t let their property to someone in receipt of housing benefit or universal credit – a stance described by rent campaigners as “disgusting, immoral and illegal”.

While there is no outright law against the practice, two court rulings in England have established it is unlawful to discriminate against people on benefits. So-called ‘No DSS’ adverts are also banned on leading property sites like Rightmove and Zoopla.

“The fact that more than 40 per cent of landlords surveyed said they wouldn’t rent homes to people claiming housing benefit or universal credit is disgusting, and not only immoral but also illegal under equalities law,” said Nick Ballard, head organiser and tenants union Acorn.

“This income-based discrimination means renters already struggling to find an affordable home have to search from a more limited pool and are often shut out of the market.

“Landlords can’t just decide which laws they do or don’t follow, and we call on the government to act strongly to ensure that these prejudices are not acted upon.”

As well as discriminating against renters over benefits, 84 per cent of landlords also said they would not let out their property to people with a history of rent arrears.

But the impact of Covid-19 showed more than two-thirds of landlords had at least one tenant in arrears due to the pandemic. That would leave some of the 4.4 million households in the private rented sector at risk of struggling to find a new home if they are evicted over arrears.

Meanwhile, the Westminster government’s English Private Landlord Survey also revealed money was a significant motivator in becoming a landlord.

Landlords most commonly viewed their role as a ‘long-term investment to contribute to their pension’ or as an ‘investment for rental income’ – as was the case for around half of the landlords quizzed. Only around 20 per cent said their main role was to be a residential landlord.

The statistics contradict a survey from earlier this year which found that landlords wanted to rebrand themselves as ‘small housing providers’ after negative press that painted them as “financial bogeymen”. 

Overall, 13 per cent of landlords said they were self-employed with their main source of income coming from rent while almost half said they increased the rent when a new tenant moves in.

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Landlords with multiple properties also make up a large part of the rental market with almost half of the tenancies in England managed by just under a fifth of landlords who have five properties or more.

While 43 per cent of landlords own one rental property, that accounts for just 20 per cent of tenancies. A further 39 per cent of landlords own between two and four properties, accounting for just under a third of the total tenancies.

Landlords were also more likely to have bought their property with the intention of renting it out. That was the case for just over half the landlords quizzed in the survey while 35 per cent bought their first property to live in themselves initially.

Acorn’s Ballard added: “The English Private Landlord Survey quite clearly shows that private renting is not a viable or long term housing solution, and that more social housing is desperately needed to help alleviate the housing crisis. 

“As part of the Renters Reform Coalition we’re calling for the government to close loopholes and clamp down on DSS discrimination.”

The Westminster government unveiled reforms to the private rental sector during the Queen’s Speech earlier this month through the Renters’ Reform Bill.

That included long-awaited plans to scrap no-fault evictions – or section 21 evictions as they are also known – which allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason.

Levelling Up and Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.

The New Deal for renters announced today will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.

The survey shows more than two-thirds of landlords who evicted tenants or asked them to leave in the last year used a Section 21 notice. A quarter asked tenants to leave informally while the same proportion used a section 8 notice, which is primarily used to deal with rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.  

One in 20 landlords told the survey they had even offered to pay tenants to vacate their property.

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