haart says it DOES arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefit

The agency chain named as having the most branches banning benefits tenants has said that this is not company policy – while landlords said that there has been a huge rise in the number of benefits tenants going into arrears, blaming not agents but the system itself.

Yesterday, EYE reported on research by lobbying organisation Shelter and social landlords trade body the National Housing Federation.

The research used mystery shoppers posing as tenants on benefits who rang 149 branches of well-known agents – Bridgfords, Dexters, Fox & Sons, Your Move, Hunters and haart.

It named haart as the worst offender, saying there was a ban on housing benefit tenants in eight out of 25 haart branches.

However a spokesperson for haart said: “It is not our policy to refuse housing benefit tenants – anyone who passes referencing checks is able to rent properties listed with our branches.

“We do regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and currently have 112 tenancies where this is the case.

“This research has brought to light that some of our branches are misinformed and we are working to ensure that this policy is being followed across our network.

“We are sorry for any occasion where this has not been the case.”

The issue of discrimination against tenants on benefit was aired on C4 News yesterday evening and also on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show, where tenant Stephen Tyler, a wheelchair user, said he had had to sleep in his car.

He said: “We have been trying to find accommodation since we were evicted from our last property when we asked for adaptations to be made for wheelchair access.

“I phone anything up to 20 landlords, estate agents, a day and none of them will accept DSS.”

He said he had also approached his council as well as housing associations, but “no one wants to help at all”.

Yesterday Isobel Thomson, CEO of the National Approved Letting Scheme, said: “The majority of lettings and management agents are professionals who are skilled at managing housing benefit and universal credit tenancies, dealing with applicants on a case by case basis.

“Many agents help prospective and existing tenants obtain access to the benefits they are entitled to.

“An assumption that there is widespread discrimination, particularly of women and disabled people on benefits, is emotive conjecture and fails to paint an accurate picture of the sector.

“In some areas tenants on benefits form agents’ client base.

“Vilification of letting agents and landlords will not resolve housing problems where the provision of sufficient social housing is at the heart of the matter.

“The complexity of the benefits system and delays in payment add to the difficulties.

“Shouldn’t we be working together to come up with solutions which could solve the ills of the sector to ensure that no vulnerable tenants are left behind, rather than castigating one section of it?”

Meanwhile  the Residential Landlords Association said six  out of ten landlords are experiencing tenants on benefits going into arrears.

David Smith, RLA policy director, said: “The benefits system makes it inherently challenging for claimants to pay their rent in full and on time as it pays in arrears, compared to rents which are paid in advance.

“Our most recent member survey shows a huge increase in the number of landlords experiencing tenants on Universal Credit going into arrears, rising from 27% in 2016 to 61% now.

“At a time of huge demand for private rented housing, it is not surprising that landlords would rather choose a tenant who can pay the rent when it is due.

“Another factor is that almost a quarter of landlords responding to our survey said they had mortgage conditions blocking them from letting to tenants on benefits.

“The Government should ensure that the benefits system does not place claimants in a worse position than others looking to rent a home.”

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29 Comments

  1. Robert May

    4 weekly benefits paid 6 weeks in arrears with monthly  top up simply does not fit with  computer based client cash accounting systems that calculate rent monthly or even 4 weekly.

    The  benefits system creates an apparent compounding of arrears where the 0.333333333333. difference between 13 x 4 weeks and 52/12  makes it look like tenants are keeping hold of rent. Throw into the mix some months have 30 days, some have 31 and one has 28 but ocassionally 29 and confusion wins!

    I tried to explain this to a government minister  and  to Clive Betts MP in 2012  (chair of the inquiry into PRS) the maths of the system was beyond them both.

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  2. Mark Connelly

    Yes Robert I suspect you would had to deliver it in “Janet & John book 2 mode” for them to grasp it.

    “This system doesn’t allow rent to be paid on time and will result in claimants not being able to rent properties” Probably just about qualifies as something they could understand.

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    1. Robert May

      I have posted the arrears profile for 3 accounting schedules on twitter, just checking a single tenant’s statement who had paid the  25  payments (?!) for the year correctly and on time over the 54 weeks (?!!!) of a 1 year for 12 rent calculations is a mind challenge most  coders I know would struggle with. Multiply that lot by 2 for a double entry system and add a means of auditing  and reconciling it all and I can already hear people being busy on other stuff

      The reason the system won’t get changed is very few people will admit or understand that the double entry ledger system from 30 years ago  works in ledger books but doesn’t work on a computer.

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      1. DarrelKwong43

        That is the one of the minor reasons why universal credit was brought in, so a tenant could pay monthly.  if the tenant pays rent in advance at the very start (which many councils will provide to the tenant to reduce homelessness), then in theory a tenant on UC, should behave like a normal tenant in terms of rent payment.

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        1. Robert May

          but Labour have demonised universal credit. The Trofaen trial was poorly chosen and executed so the  major benefit of universal credit  has never been seen.  I consider removing the unwarranted stigma of being a benefits tenant to be the single biggest  benefit of UC. Under UC who knows or needs to know where the cash in your bank has come from?

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          1. DarrelKwong43

            That is probably the biggest misunderstanding from UC, because the agent/landlord will surely ask, where the money is coming from.  

            UC has creditable aims IMHO, and will make it easier accountancy wise for HB tenant (if they actually pay it) 

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            1. Robert May

              Where is the difference between a benefits assisted tenant who gets their money once a month from the government ( not enough to live on) and a pensioner who gets their money once a month from the government (not enough to live on)

               

              Old tenants are fine, younger tenants are not?  Doesn’t make sense.

               

              the whole workable process of administering universal credit rent payments has been discussed and  then ignored for political reasons.

               

              The worrying irony in this story? Front line agency staff who currently turn away benefits tenants  could quite easily become a tenant who no longer has a wage, having been made redundant.

              I’ve had 3 redundancies and that makes one mindful that people do not become financially irresponsible because they don’t have a job.

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              1. CountryLass

                Isnt it because the pension amount wont change, but the UC/benefits can change or be suspended at the drop of a hat?

                And having had my partner lose his job last year, I actually became more financially responsible I found!

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                1. Robert May

                  If the pair of you walked into an agency the week after he lost his job it will be assumed  he is a (insert  DSS stereotype) who can’t be trusted to hand over the benefits money when it comes through in 6 weeks time.

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                  1. CountryLass

                    Exactly. They would ignore all the evidence of the fact we have always been in employment, sometimes part time for me, but both always been earning. I wasn’t arguing, I was agreeing with you that once you have been in that situation, you prioritise bills, tighten belts and account for every penny.

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  3. Property Poke In The Eye

    People claiming benefits never pass the referencing procedure and in 99.99% of cases they will not have anyone to guarantee.

    Building insurance also increases by about 25% with HB tenants.

    Why don’t the directors at Shelter lobby the government, for councils to guarantee HB rental.

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  4. Rayb92

    Just get home owner working guarantors .. works well creates the necessary leverage when needed !

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    1. DarrelKwong43

      talking sense RB

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    2. CountryLass

      Because not everyone has the required income to be a guarantor? I’m not entirely sure my parents would have enough. My dad receives a pension and works part time, and my mum is a Natural England volunteer and helps me out by looking after my daughter 2 days a week. They own their own home and have a comfortable lifestyle after years of hard work, but I don’t think they fit in to the ‘guarantor box’.

       

      In theory you’re right, but the real world doesn’t like ‘sensible’ or ‘logical’ or even ‘common sense’

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      1. DarrelKwong43

        TBH, I am not overly worried about income, its the asset which is the important requirement for a guarantor

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        1. jeremy1960

          Unless landlords want RGI, in which case Guarantor’s income has to come into the equation and in our case has to equate to 36 x monthly rent

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  5. Eastsidestory90

    The council actively and consistently advise all tenants that they can’t find them emergency accommodation until they’ve been evicted.

    Meaning trouble down the track for a landlord.

    The govt and local council need to take a look at theyre procedures as this is also a big part of the problem.

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    1. JMK

      You are of course completely on the mark there.  One upside though is that once the tenant gets the CCJ they won’t pass a credit check.  In this way the councils are shooting themselves in the foot.

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      1. jeremy1960

        In my experience, most landlords that have gone through teh stress and expense of courts and eviction do not have the energy or desire to spend more money on CCJ. In many cases the tenant has gone and no address is known which means more cost to teh landlord to trace before service?

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    2. CountryLass

      Exactly. I had a Landlord who served S21 and S8 due to massive rent arrears going on for over 6 months, and even had a new Tenant lined up for a week or so after the S21 finished (against my advice), but the Council told the Tenant not to leave as they couldnt re-house her and her daughter if they left, so the poor new Tenant was left homeless! They had to sofa surf for 2 weeks until I managed to whinge at the Council enough for her to be upgraded to get a house!

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  6. JMK

    I have only one housing benefit tenant.  I also only have one tenant in arrears.  Guess what…..

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  7. pat123-

    I worked for haart for almost two years and we were encouraged to say no to any DSS tenants, this was often the case with the many other branches i spoke with as well.

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    1. DarrelKwong43

      agreed, not many reasons, why an landlord would consider a fully referenced working tenant, over a HB application, hence the reasons many councils offer an incentive to a landlord to take one.  I know some london councils who have pay thousands as an incentive. 

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      1. jeremy1960

        Thousands of tax payer’s money Darrel which councils would be far better spending on housing rather than subsidies.

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        1. CountryLass

          Or put back in to the system to improve and overhaul it!

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        2. DarrelKwong43

          or better sandwiches on a training day 🙂

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  8. SJEA

    We have a number of tenants with DSS supported by home-owner guarantors.

    Those that do not have the support of their family acting as guarantors appear to have a different attitude to when they should pay rent, not when the date in the contract states, but when they get their benefits.

    Tenants, Shelter and Government do not understand that the rental contract is a contract between tenant and landlord and Landlords should not have to wait weeks, sometimes months for the payments to be made. Landlords have financial commitments also !

    Secondly, if the eviction process for non-payment could be accelerated, then more Landlords would take higher risks knowing that they can get their properties back sooner if the tenants default for non-payment.

    Finally, I have also, in over 25 years, never had a Landlord ask my firm to evict a good tenant who pays their rent on time, regardless of the claims by Shelter.

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    1. CountryLass

      Exactly! Maybe a Landlord should tell the Council “sorry, I can’t pay my Council tax on 1st of the month as my Tenant doesnt recieve their benefits until 15th, so then I’ve got to wait for it to clear, so I’m just going to pay it on 24th of each month. Unless my Tenant doesnt get their rent to me on time in which case you’ll get it when I feel like it.” and see how that goes over…

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  9. Property Paddy

    just for clarity sake, when haaarts say

    ““We do regularly arrange tenancies for those claiming housing benefits and currently have 112 tenancies where this is the case”

    do they mean trading as haarts or Darlows ?  I only ask cos I know their Newport office, south wales is in an area close to one of the less well off parts of the UK.

     

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