Campaigners opposed to mortgage lenders allowing landlords to rent property to people claiming benefits tried to voice their discontent over the weekend by attempting to storm a Bristol branch of NatWest.
Activists from campaign group Acorn demonstrated outside the branch in Broadmead on Saturday. They handed out leaflets to customers and passers-by as part of an organised protest against what the group see as the ‘discriminatory’ terms and conditions in which it offers buy-to-let mortgages.
The protesters did attempt to enter the branch, but were denied access by security and the police.
There are growing calls for the government to tackle discrimination against benefit claimants after it emerged last month that NatWest told one landlord that she would either have to evict her tenant of two years, or take her mortgage business elsewhere, after a blanket ban by the bank on benefit claimants.
The bank’s own buy-to-let eligibility criteria notes: “We will not consider multiple tenancies, Homes of Multiple Occupancy, bedsits, DSS tenants or ‘Related Person’ tenancies.”
Research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) found two-thirds - 66% - of mortgage lenders representing 90% of the buy-to-let market refuse a loan where a tenant is claiming benefit.
The Work and Pensions Committee last week blasted lenders for adopting what it sees as “no DSS” policies.
But the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland group, which owns the bank, justified the clause in a letter to MPs last week.
Ross McEwan wrote: “In line with a number of other lenders … our mortgage policy for landlords with smaller property portfolios … includes a restriction on letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit.
“This reflects evidence that rental arrears are much greater in this segment of the market and we are satisfied that this restriction does not contravene equality legislation.”
But NatWest has confirmed that it is now reviewing its buy-to-let mortgage policies.