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Landlords urged: Embrace housing benefit tenants, don't reject them

The head of an agency is urging landlords to “embrace” tenants on housing benefits, instead of seeking to avoid them.

Mish Liyanage, chief executive of Pick My Pad, says: “Many tenants on benefits are seeking affordable accommodation in the private sector and landlords should be embracing them. However, it is vital that landlords educate themselves with the requirements for DSS tenants.  

“With this knowledge, they can run a very successful tenancy.  But without the right know how, landlords could in the worst-case scenario, lose money.

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“It is important to understand the housing benefit system and payment cycle. Local Housing Allowance councils pay tenants two weekly, four weekly or calendar monthly so there is little point in a tenancy agreement that demands a payment on different dates. For example, Bolton council’s 1 bed rate is £90.90 and Salford council’s 1 bed rate is £138.08. 

“We have currently over 400 tenants on benefits and achieve a rent collection record of over 90 per cent. 

“Many tenants do not want the hassle of dealing with housing benefit and they want the convenience of it being sorted for them. Although many understand that they need to apply for housing benefit, they prefer if the landlord or an agent can assist them with doing this on their behalf. 

“The temptation to spend housing benefit can be far too great for tenants and often they fall into a debt trap by using housing benefit payments for living costs on a short-term basis. So if landlords can help tenants to avoid this temptation and providing the rent is affordable, there is the potential of a long and secure tenancy to be enjoyed by both parties."

In March 2020, the Local Housing Allowance was increased to cover the bottom 30 per cent of rents, but has been frozen again in cash terms; charities and campaigning rental bodies want the government to rethink this freeze. 

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    In the past when I did have housing benefit tenants it was always these tenants that got into arrears, local housing allowance doesn't meet the full rent, and now that we are loosing sec 21 evicting non paying tenants is going to take longer and be very expensive, it would be total madness to take this risk.

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    Similar experience, why does anyone want to take on more hassle when BTL is tough enough already. These people are disingenuous and just looking out to fill their own pockets, I don't think this person genuinely believes their own spin.

     
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    To be fair I currently have 3 sets of tenants who are on housing benefit and they are older folks. The places are very clean and never an issue with payment. There was a time I would have said no chance but as with everthing I let the issues seem to come from the younger tenants and older people in general have proved to be a far safer bet.

     
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    90% collection rate & tenants who can't and don't want to manage their money - doesn't sound like a good proposition to me!

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    The lazies want agents and landlords to "assist" them when applying for benefits. What a surprise?! 🙄 They want everything done for them.

    I'd rather leave my property empty that let these into my flat.

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    When Central / local Govt ( or Tenant support groups ) guarantee the Full market rent paid direct to the landlord, maybe Landlords will embrace some tenants in receipt of benefits

    Govt have to take the blame squarely for this, by imposing two specific measures.
    1. Restricting the level of benefit below market rents. Its akin to paying a car disability rate below leasing costs and taking legal action against car dealers for not renting a car to someone disabled for less than the lease costs !
    2. Imposing a system such as Universal Credit where due to its construction and many downfalls, too numerous to list here, landlords simply won't deal with a tenant who has benefit via U.C. and nobody in their right mind could blame them.

    There are many ways to 'screen' applying tenants and using a benefit criteria which pays less than market rate is a perfectly sound financial judgement method. However, given equality cases are brought, there are many other ways.
    The benefit discrimination cases by Shelter will house LESS tenants in receipt of benefit, not more !

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    Why take benefit tenants? My insurance increases, more risk of default, claw back, higher risk (according to insurance) of damage.? No I think I will pass for now.

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    I have only ever evicted one tenant, a DSS claimant, who left the property totally trashed. Never again!

    Plenty of decent tenants looking for good properties. Benefit claimants can take the dross properties not wanted by others.

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    JUST paid off a non paying, aggressive, threatening tenant, who was so awful the other tenants were locking themselves in their rooms, whilst he was stealing from their cupboards. Also meant writing off £3K debt (single room in HMO). NEVER EVER AGAIN!!!

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    Same here, but fortunately they were living in the property right up to the police and bailiff knock on the door so didn't get time to trash the place. They did however put the porch window in a week later to get their benefits cheque. The death threats in front of the police were a nice touch too. Who needs this BS in their lives?

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    That was in reply to Robert Brown.

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    The tenant’s room was totally trashed too.

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    Have only ever had one house well and truly trashed by tenants - guess what,DSS

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    I've had four non rent payers over the many years I have been a landlord and ALL have been on benefits. One went to court and the bailiff stage and was fully trashed, and all the other others left in a bad state with broken furniture or rubbish they didn't want. 90% rent collection on 400 tenants is not a great statistic and would certainly not sway me to take the risk again.

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    No

    Mish Liyanage, chief executive of Pick My Pad claims a 90% payment on rent owed. 90%!!!

    Ask your agent what their figure is and a good one will claim much higher than that towards 97-98%. Simple decision here do not under any circumstances use ‘Pick my pad’ ever

  • Andrew McCausland

    We have 100+ benefits recipients and have had some excellent tenants over the years. However, I agree with a lot of what Possession-friend says. We have been dealing with HB and UC tenants for 20+ years and it has become a specialist area of expertise over that time, especially for UC . There are now so many problems with the payment systems that you need to know what you are doing before you take anyone on in receipt of benefits. Unless you know your way around Tier 1 and 2 access and the joys of UC47's I would tell any LL to stay well clear.

    Progressive governments over the years are to blame, starting with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who removed direct LL payments. We now have a system that actively discourages LL from getting involved with benefits tenants - just at the time when central and local government need help the most.

    There are some easy fixes that could be made to the system. The easiest to implement would be reintroduction of direct payments for all HB and housing element of UC. We have been pushing for these since the advent of UC but I have no faith these will happen. Until it does then very few LL will make the switch to helping these generally good tenants get a home.

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    My fee for 'assistance' is more than the rent! I nearly ended up in a funny farm after trying to deal with the local council a few years ago. I seriously nearly had a nervous breakdown. I am about to offer a rental to someone on full disability benefits and am about to word a letter advising that I will have no contact with the council regarding their tenancy for fear of being seriously ill as a consequence. Feeling a bit sick at the whole prospect but don't want to seem judgy just because he is on disability. He is really nice.

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    Hi Genevieve very simple solution for this one. Ask the home owning guarantor to pay you monthly and they can deal with their relative and the council. This is how we do it and it works fine.

     
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    • 19 April 2021 11:54 AM

    I certainly won't reject them, because they will NEVER get near my properties to prove me wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • James B

    Another self serving company just trying to get some publicity.. they probably well know the issues faced but trying to get their business noticed ... I bet they won’t guarantor any of these tenants they speak so highly of

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    Sometimes agents are just as bad. A friend of mine was looking for a new tenant as her previous one (single mother with three kids on benefits who was a tenant for more than 10 years without a problem) decided to move closer to family. The agents tried to convince her to take a benefit applicant, single mother to four kids. When looking into the finances the applicant was going to be £200 short on the rent every month, without taking into account utilities, council tax, food, clothing etc., and the agents tried to push her into accepting the applicant. My friend eventually told them to shove it and she'd move to a different agent if that was what they thought was acceptable!

    I agree with her, can't afford the rent, never mind anything else and has no guarantor within the first month she'll be in debt and how long would it take to get her out with all the do-gooders and so-called charities saying you can't evict!

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    Pick My Pad you are on a good screw aren't you the fees on 400 Tenant on Benefit, you have carved out a lucrative business for yourselves at the tax payers expense, are you not ashamed. Then add the 400 Benefit milkers who now think its too much hassle for them to apply for money they are getting for nothing, no hope then of them making the effort of filling out a job application that would be far too onerous, why bother you'll all be kept on the back of the tax payer. I just don't know why people go to work when Benefit Claimants are held in a much higher regard. Mish Liyanage now have the cheek to tell us to Educate ourselves to learn the crap they invent to sponge off the State. The Benefit System is supposed to be a safety net as a last resort not the the first port of call, we were LL's long before his company existed now he likes to dictate to us what to do.

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    ''Pick My Pad'' who would use a company with such a stupid name.

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    Perhaps they thought Trash Your Pad would be too near the truth for their target tenants?

     
  • George Dawes

    I think they left the R out

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    What's a PRad?

     
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    No way will I ever take tenants on benefits,nothing, but trouble.!
    been there had that.trash your property,don't pay rent,council problems ,sub let and border on the criminal.
    would prefer to leave the place empty.
    Unless the government stops treating landlords like criminal,nothing will change.

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    Many tenants using the term “DSS” have no idea what it means. The “Department for Social Security” hasn’t existed since 2001 but most people recognise the acronym, especially within the context of “No DSS”.

    We had a mother of 2 children apply for a tenancy, based on housing benefit plus working the maximum allowable hours in a supermarket. She gave us the impression that although she was living from hand to mouth each month with absolutely no spare income, she would rather have a finger cut off than miss a rental payment and for the first 14-15 months she was a model tenant. However, after rejecting advances from a co-worker, said co-worker shopped her to the council by saying she was working excess hours allowed under the receipt of benefits rules (she wasn’t but why let the facts get in the way of an opportunity to visit grief?)

    The council immediately issued a sanction and suspended her housing benefit. The English legal system works on the presumption of innocence. Not the benefits system. She was deemed guilty from the outset and was absolutely mortified that she was immediately in arrears with no prospect of recovering the deficit.

    Our experience trying to speak with the Council wasn’t as bad as Genevieve Nash but they were absolutely impenetrable. Our landlord client was unsympathetic and asked us to start eviction proceedings against her. In the end, her stepfather paid her arrears but not before she had almost become a nervous wreck despite the co-worker being found out to have lied out of malice.
    Our tenant is still in situ and hasn’t missed a rental payment since but sadly, she is the exception. The easiest way to avoid problems is “Sorry, no DSS”

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    When the Local Councils stop encouraging Benefit Tenants to abuse Landlords then perhaps they will be accepted. As long as Councils employ Left wing Socialists, they will never.be trusted.

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    They need to work for Councils as no commercial business would employ them and they couldn't do real jobs anyway,

     
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