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Unpaid carer on universal credit rejected from renting 100 properties after no-fault eviction

Steven Jackson says discrimination against renters who receive benefits and the local housing allowance freeze means he cannot find a place to live for himself and his wife

End Housing Insecurity Now

The Big Issue is calling on policymakers to End Housing Insecurity Now

Steven Jackson’s search for a new place to rent has taken him across more than 120 properties in the north of England and Scotland. But the universal credit, carer’s allowance and personal independence payments he and his wife receive have so far failed to help them find an affordable new home.

Jackson – a carer for his wife, who has serious mental health issues – received a Section 21 eviction notice from his home in Bury, Greater Manchester, last November after his landlord was forced to hike up the rent to cover their own mortgage. 

Since then, Jackson’s search has been hampered by local housing allowance rates that have made skyrocketing rents virtually impossible to afford. The unpaid carer also told The Big Issue he believes he has faced discrimination when applying for properties because he receives benefits – a practice the government has promised to make illegal through the Renters Reform Bill.

The Big Issue’s End Housing Insecurity Now campaign is urging Rishi Sunak to rectify both issues to protect low-income renters. The campaign is calling for the government to bring the Renters Reform Bill into law and unfreeze local housing allowance rates as well as reform universal credit.

But the current scenario means that Jackson could face moving miles away from where he is from – and even away from his wife – to find a home.

Jackson, 43, who has previously experienced street homelessness as a teenager and in his early 30s, said: “It would cause a lot of problems but it would also solve the main problem which is a roof over my head.

“Local housing allowance is the biggest issue that I am facing. It’s so low considering the rents. We’re lucky because we’re not just on universal credit, we have PIP and I’m on carer’s allowance which is nothing really but it’s all taken up. It just doesn’t go anywhere.

“We were doing OK in the pandemic but then once you throw in that bills have doubled, there’s not enough in universal credit to cover all your bills.”

Jackson told The Big Issue he was issued with a Section 21 eviction notice in November 2022 after his landlord told him he couldn’t afford to rent out the property any more as his mortgage repayments had grown from £300 a month to £900 a month. The landlord had previously kept the rent down because he knew Jackson was a carer, he added.

That meant Jackson and his wife of 14 years needed to find a new place to live.

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But Jackson has been forced to cast the net wide to find an affordable property, travelling more than 100 miles away to Scotland in his search.

The unstable living situation has seen his wife’s mental health deteriorate while the unpaid carer has been forced to sleep on friend’s sofas as he travels to find a new place to live.

In the meantime, Jackson said he has racked up £7,000 in debts and has even been to court over unpaid council tax bills as he has yet to leave the property in Bury.

Money issues and the fact the pair receive benefits means they are currently struggling to find a new home.

“We started looking and we did have a property in February of this year but the night before, for some strange reason, the new landlord said no and pulled out but I’d already given my notice in to my landlord,” said Jackson.

“I’ve applied for 122 private properties from Manchester to Scotland. I’m just applying and I’m getting nowhere. I’m not even getting through the door. I think obviously it’s because we’re on benefits.

“I went up to Blackpool yesterday for a viewing, paid £60, borrowed money to get up there, I went and viewed the property but the minute I left I got a phone call saying the property has already gone.

“I’ll do it again if I have to. But it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re just not getting enough for the rent.”

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The government said it spent £1bn raising local housing allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents back in 2020.

But since then rates have been frozen and grown so far apart from skyrocketing rents that Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing warned earlier in the year that fewer than one in five private rents in England were viable for low-income tenants.

Meanwhile, the government’s long-delayed Renters Reform Bill is yet to receive a second reading in parliament.

That’s leaving renters who receive benefits in a precarious state: facing the insecurity of receiving an eviction notice if they can’t keep up with rising rents and unable to find a new home because properties are unaffordable or they face discrimination.

“I have to use my wife’s disability payment to top up the rent because otherwise the local housing allowance doesn’t cover it. It doesn’t even cover rent in a room in an HMO [house in multiple occupation]. You can’t turn anywhere because nobody knows what to do,” said Jackson.

“You can’t get any help and then the properties that you’re going for you don’t even get a look in because they’re going. That many applicants are going for it somebody in my situation is less likely to get that property than somebody working.

“I would say 98% of the time it’s because I’m on benefits. It’s the people that are not working, that are in a vulnerable situation that are suffering.

“I go to a local charity in Tameside and you hear it everyday: people living in damp but they’re scared to approach people about it. They’d rather put up with mushrooms in the kitchen because they know full well it will be: get rid of them.”

We’re calling on the prime minister to make sure everyone can afford to stay in their homes and pay for the essentials by:

  • Unfreezing Local Housing Allowance rates
  • Increasing Universal Credit to £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple

Will you add your voice to our call and sign the petition?

Steven Jackson contacted The Big Issue to tell us his story. Are you having problems with renting? Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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