Rising homelessness: Too much welfare reform and not enough rental reform?

Every household who loses their home and turns to their council for help represents a tragedy. Homelessness has a profound impact on people’s lives and many parents will be aware that even the welcome help from the council could come at the price of being moved far away from the area they and their children know or placed in unsuitable and often intimidating shared Bed and Breakfast accommodation.

But, far from personal tragedies, such households tell the rest of us about the desperate state of the housing market in Britain. The latest homelessness statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government reveal just how broken the housing market has become and issue a warning that we won’t reduce homelessness until we fix these structural flaws.

Private rented insecurity driving homelessness

Insecurity in the private rented sector is now directly behind three in ten statutory acceptances. This means that a household has been told to leave their home by the landlord, approached their council for help finding somewhere to live and the council has accepted they have a duty to rehouse them because they’re in priority need (normally because they have children), did not cause their own homelessness and are eligible for assistance.

This scenario is increasingly common: short term contracts of six or 12 months are still the standard offer by private landlords, meaning renters live in a state of perpetual insecurity. When rents are affordable and supply is good, the ending of one tenancy may be disruptive for a family but it does not have to leave them homeless. Increasingly, however, households are finding it impossible to find alternative, affordable accommodation and have no other choice but to turn to the council for assistance. First the council will try to “prevent and relieve” their homeless, often by putting them in touch with another private landlord. But where this isn’t possible and the council has “reason to believe” someone is homeless, the statutory homelessness legislation kicks in as a safety net for those with no other options.

The fact that this is happening more and more tells us the PRS isn’t working for families. Implementing Shelter’s proposal for long term stable rental contracts would go a long way towards tackling insecurity. Crucially it would mean that landlords couldn’t increase rents by an unaffordable amount or evict households in the hope of attracting new, wealthier tenants willing to pay more.

But we also need to address affordability. For families on housing benefit they may be unable to find a home that is within Local Housing Allowance limits or a landlord willing to let to people receiving financial top-ups. It’s no accident that homelessness driven by the loss of an AST began to increase in the wake of reductions to Local Housing Allowance.

That’s why Shelter is calling on the next government to review LHA rates to ensure households can afford to rent privately. This should include the need to relink LHA increases to actual rent inflation to ensure people can continue to access basic accommodation and don’t get priced out.

Lack of affordable supply further hits homeless families

It’s not just the increase in AST-driven acceptances that alerts us to the sorry state of the housing market. The number of households in TA continues to increase, including a huge increase in the number of families placed in Bed and Breakfasts. Over 2,000 families spent New Year’s eve 2014 in Bed and Breakfast accommodation, a 31% increase compared to the same date in 2013. And what’s worse is that 780 families had been there for six weeks or more, a 56 per cent increase compared to the same quarter in 2013. This is despite it being illegal to keep families in B&Bs for more than six weeks and increased pressure on local authorities to find better alternatives.

Are local authorities doing this because they don’t care about the law and the manifest negative impacts on children? Or is it because they’re suffering from the same affordability pressures and supply shortages as the households they’re trying to help? Temporary accommodation is often procured from private landlords or housing associations, often on a longer term lease, and effectively sub-let to the homeless household. But with rising rents and competition from other households, it becomes harder for landlords to strike agreements with private landlords. Again, welfare reform has acerbated the situation. Housing benefit that can be paid for TA has been frozen since 2011, despite rising rents. Moreover, since 2013 homeless families have been subject to the household benefit cap, even though they have no choice over their accommodation. Combined, this makes it harder for local authorities to use the private rented sector to house homeless families. As a result only 38% of TA is now leased from a private landlord or housing association, down from 60% five years previously. Amid a lack of alternatives, B&Bs become the emergency solution.

Fixing this means ensuring local authorities have the funds they need. The question of temporary accommodation funding was effectively put on ice prior to the roll out of Universal Credit. But with far fewer families on Universal Credit than expected, it’s time that the DWP reviewed the rates of HB payable to homeless families. Homeless families also need temporary respite from the overall benefit cap to ensure local authorities can actually carry out their legal duty to rehouse families. The power to fix some of the causes of homelessness lays frustratingly close at hand.

Share this Article

Had a bad housing experience? Share your story, to help us campaign for real change

Want to take action? Help us be there for every person who needs us

Tell us your thoughts on social housing, to get your voice heard at a national level

8 Comments
  1. “Insecurity in the private rented sector is now directly behind three in ten statutory acceptances. This means that a household has been told to leave their home by the landlord, approached their council for help finding somewhere to live and the council ”

    The wording used by Shelter are a nasty slur on landlords. If someone is claiming benefits. The councils force Landlords to take the tenant to court, then wait until the court gives it verdict and then wait until the landlord has paid out for a bailiff. The process costs landlords £1,000.

    May be Shelter should be asking why are landlords spending a £1,000 to evict a tenant?

    I personally would not take on a dss tenant, simply because of the difficulty in evicting such a tenant. It is a risk to take on a new dss tenant, but paying a £1,000 to evict a bad tenant is grossly unfair.

  2. I will avoid taking on housing benefit tenants.

    It had become practice among some bad tenants, to maliciously wreck a private landlord property. Such tenants *want* to be evicted. They don’t care if they have causes ten of thousands of pounds of damage. The goal is simple, get the landlord to evict you. The tenant they can go to the council and say I am homeless – now give me council housing! I am high priority.

    Even if offered temporary accommodation, puts you in a higher position.

    Landlords have learned their lessons the hard way. Don’t rent out to housing benefit claimants.

    It is Shelter fault, for not addressing the issue and turning a blind eye.

    Even if housing benefit paid higher then private rents, I would not take on a housing benefit tenant. There are too many problems… In my experience the house is not well looked after.

    I am sure there are good people out there, but to give someone a chance is just too painful. Correcting a mistake involves a trip to the Court at a cost of £1,000.

    The LHA system is flawed. The tenants get the money, but they don’t pay the landlords…..

    1. No one in a housing advice capacity will ever turn a blind eye and not address an issue of neglect or wanton damage by a tenant. If an adviser does that they can not adequately represent their clients.

      It is also necessary to correct your misunderstanding in respect of council accommodation priority for an applicant who has been evicted for reason of a failure to act in a tenant like manner.

      I was employed by a Local Authority in a capacity to review appeals by applicants who did not accept that they were intentionally homeless – and for whom their was not an obligation to provide housing and certainly since 2012 they would not qualify for a higher position on a register. I rejected a number of appeals if the evidence supported a finding of “intentional homelessness”.

      1. “No one in a housing advice capacity will ever turn a blind eye and not address an issue of neglect or wanton damage by a tenant.”

        I am afraid they have!

        Colin: In your job for the council, you were never made to prosecute tenants for malicious damage. Bad tenants have been getting away with it for years. It is the ‘good tenants’ who suffer when they are denied private housing.

        “employed by a Local Authority in a capacity to review appeals by applicants who did not accept that they were intentionally homeless – and for whom their was not an obligation to provide housing and certainly since 2012”

        In 2014, I had to go to Court. The council re-housed the tenant. The agency told me they would not re-house the tenant. They were wrong. The tenant was re-housed. No one from the council bothered to write to me to ask, how much damage the tenant had caused.

        Councils are desperate for properties, yet they mistreated the Landlords who supply them.

        I was told by one council officer, they have a duty to prevent homelessness, even when a tenant is in the wrong.

        Their attitude over the years has been ‘there is plenty of fish in the sea’, but that policy has caught up with them. It is compounded with LHA payment system. Councils are now wasting money on B&Bs.

        Council staff may have “forgotten” about Joe Bloggs tenants who caused £10k worth of property damage, but next time I get a sob story from a single mum who wants a house, I just say No Sorry!

        As for Shelter don’t give a toss.

    2. Dear Landlord,

      Maybe there are some people what you described just above in your comment who really will do anything even illegal things just to be evicted just to get a council flat but you shouldn’t really think that all people who are getting housing benefit is the same who just wants to make big damage in the property? There are some people still working and just their wages simply not enough to cover the rent and all the essential things for living that’s mean they just ask for some kind of help to be able to remain on the same property and not to be on the streets especially with kids?! Don’t you think that it can happen with anybody nowadays when they moved in to a property they had good jobs, good salary, good references and it could change at any time without being your fault if your employer makes you redundant or they are reducing your hours for example, what actually happened with us? And on that time you go to the only place where you can get some help very quickly, like your local jobcentre or council, because when it happens landlords simply won’t care and won’t reduce their rent (you can ask why they should even think about it) but you need to live somewhere as I think nobody should expect you to live on the streets just because suddenly you can’t afford your rent, that’s when actually housing benefit comes as a help to be able to give you time to sort out your problem without loosing everything. air doesn’t mean all these kind of tenants like as want to stay forever in this situation and we won’t continue to take care of the flat like before when we didn’t get any help from the council! Landlords shouldn’t take everybody as the same as this kind of thinking what you Landlord representing in your posts about housing benefit tenants just make the situation worst!!! How? I will explain to you.

      So if somebody becoming a person needing some financial help for a while yet he/she is still working, and let say these people has a child and even expecting their second than suddenly found themselves in the situation where the landlord sold his flat, wants us to move out within the given notice period because the new owner the flat wants to move in. That’s what exactly happened with us! Guess what is our problem, we cannot move out as we cannot find another flat within the area because our wages are low, and we are getting housing benefit what none of the landlords want to accept it like you as well. We cannot afford to buy a flat as we even unable to pay the whole month of rent without help so what we should do? I should go as a pregnant woman with my son on the streets because I’m unable to get another flat even though both me and my partner working at the moment? I shouldn’t go and ask for help from my local council as a last chance? Where I should live until both me and my partner would be able to get a better job to be able to rent out a normal flat at least? And when I went to the council they just telling me that they are unable to help until the landlord goes to the court and get a possession order to evict us…. Did I ask for this? No this is the council’s advice for tenants like us in this situation. So what can I really do at the moment than force the landlord to evict me as I really haven’t got anywhere else to go with my family? Am I really being a bad tenant because of this if I don’t find any other way for affordable accommodation immediatelly? Do you really think I really planned to move into your property and wanted my hours being reduced in workplace when I’m already had my child just to get help by housing benefit? No! Did I ask you to sell your flat now when I’m in this difficult situation just to later I force you to evict me? No! Do you think so I really want to go through all this process if I would have the chance to be able to choose where and how I want to live?

      That’s why I say even the landlords make these kind of situations worse ad they are refusing tenants who are getting housing benefit regardless to make concideration about that might be they would still will be a good tenant. Yet you are right that this is your property and you have got the right to refuse certain kind of people if you feel your property would be in danger. I can understand you as well! But you have to bear in your mind and all the landlords that I also has my right to remain in the property if I have nowhere else to go and regardless you like it or not, and in this case I have the right as well to force you to go to court if you want to get back your property, and of course without causing any material damage in your property! It’s not me who wants the things happen this way but you as well force me to use my right in this way as nobody wants to accept me with my current financial situation! If more landlords would accept tenants with benefits as well, I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t check them by asking references from current landlords and workplaces, less people would be able to force eviction as it would be easier to find suitable accommodation for anyone! I wouldn’t say it never happen what happened with you or there won’t be nasty tenants but there are plenty good tenants who are actually suffering because of this thinking…. It should be see the other side’s point of view as well to see clearly! There aren’t only bad tenants out there as you can’t say there are only bad landlords only! You should see if landlords don’t change their way of thinking the situation will never be resolved or changed, just will be worst and worst. Sorry about the very long comment, this is just my opinion doesn’t need to agree with it as I also can be wrong!

    3. Dear Landlord,

      Maybe there are some people how you described just above in your comment who really will do anything even illegal things just to be evicted just to get a council flat but you shouldn’t really think that all people who are getting housing benefit is the same who just wants to make a big damage in the property? There are some people who are actually working but their wages simply not enough to cover the rent and all the essential things for living that’s mean they just ask for some kind of help to be able to remain on the same property and not to be on the streets especially with kids?! Don’t you think that it can happen with anybody nowadays when sy moves in to a property she had good job, good salary, good references and it could change at any time without being her fault if the employer makes her redundant, or reducing her working hours for example, what has actually happened with us? And on that time you go to the only place where you can get some help very quickly, like your local jobcentre or council, because when sg like this happens landlords simply won’t care and won’t reduce their rent (you can ask why they should even think about it) but you need to live somewhere as I think nobody should expect you to live on the streets just because suddenly you can’t afford your rent, that’s when actually housing benefit comes as a help to be able to give you time to sort out your problem without loosing everything. It doesn’t mean that these kind of tenants like us want to stay forever in this situation and we won’t continue to take care of the flat like before when we didn’t get any help from the council! Landlords shouldn’t take everybody as the same as this kind of thinking what you Landlord representing in your posts about housing benefit tenants just make the situation even worst!!! How? I will explain to you.

      So if somebody becoming a person who needs some financial help for a while yet he/she is still working, and let say these people has a child and even expecting their second than suddenly found themselves in the situation where the landlord sold his flat, wants them to move out within the given notice period because the new owner of the flat wants to move in. That’s what exactly happened with us! Guess what is our problem, we cannot move out as we cannot find another flat within the area because our wages are low, and we are getting housing benefit what none of the landlords want to accept, neither you. We cannot afford to buy a flat as we even unable to pay the whole month of rent without help so what we should do? I should go as a pregnant woman with my son on the streets because I’m unable to get another flat even though both me and my husband are working at the moment? I shouldn’t go and ask for help from my local council as a last chance? Where I should live until both me and my partner would be able to get a better job to be able to rent out a normal flat at least? And when I went to the council they just told me that they are unable to help until the landlord goes to the court and get a possession order to evict us…. Did I ask for this? No, this is the council’s advice for tenants like us in this situation. So what can I really do at the moment than force the landlord to evict me as I really haven’t got anywhere else to go with my family? Am I really being a bad tenant because of this if I don’t find any other way for affordable accommodation immediatelly? Do you really think I really planned to move into a property and wanted my hours being reduced in my workplace when I already had my child just to get help by housing benefit? No! Did I ask the landlord to sell his flat now when I’m in this difficult situation just for later I can force him to evict me? No! Do you think so I really want to go through all this process if I would have the chance to be able to choose where and how I want to live?

      That’s why I say even the landlords make these kind of situations worse because they are refusing tenants who are getting housing benefit regardless to make concideration about that they might be a good tenant. Well you are right if you would say that this is your property and you have got the right to refuse certain kind of people if you feel your property would be in danger. I can understand you as well! But you have to bear in your mind and all the landlords that I also has my right to remain in the property if I have nowhere else to go and regardless you like it or not, and in this case I have the right as well to force you to go to court if you want to get back your property, and of course without causing any material damage in your property! It’s not me who wants the things happen this way but you as well force me to use my right in this way as nobody wants to accept me with my current financial situation! If more landlords would accept tenants with benefits as well, I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t check them by asking references from current landlords and workplaces, less people would be able to force eviction as it would be easier to find suitable accommodation for anyone with any background! I wouldn’t say it never happen what happened with you or there won’t be nasty tenants but there are plenty good tenants who are actually suffering because of this kind of way of thinking…. It should be seen the other side’s point of view as well to see clearly! There aren’t only bad tenants out there as you can’t say there are only bad landlords only! You should see if landlords don’t change their way of thinking the situation will never be resolved or changed, just will be worse and worse. Sorry about the very long comment, this is just my opinion doesn’t need to agree with it as I also can be wrong!

      1. ” It should be seen the other side’s point of view as well to see clearly! ”

        I appreciate you writing this and explaining your side. If you read my other post, I say ‘it is good tenants suffer because of the action of bad tenants’.

        When I get a phone call from a tenant on housing benefit, I have no way of knowing their intentions, their background or history. So it is a lot easier to say “no”. If it was an ex-tenant contacting me they would be known to me. Or if the letting agent told me, this is one our tenants and they have a good record.

        In 2008, the government started giving the tenant the rent directly rather then the letting agent. It meant all these tenant who effectively ‘guaranteed’ tenants, suddenly fell into arrears, because they could not manage their finances. The housing benefit people paid the rent irregularly. As you found out, it is not easy for a landlord to evict a housing benefit tenant without going to court.

        Shelter should try to see it from a Landlords side, and they have contacts with the government. Shelter managed to push through a new law on ‘revenge eviction’, again this means Landlords have to think more carefully at prospective tenants and to see if they are likely to make false accusations about disrepair, so they cannot get evicted. I will not place much on Shelter changing their mind and helping landlords, they have their own agenda.

        I the past, I have never cared if a tenant was working or on benefits…..

  3. Great information
    shared here. If you are looking for residential, commercial property for sale
    (brokerage free) then your search is over now because we gruhkhoj provides
    best commercial office shops properties at affordable rates. Thanks for
    sharing. Real
    Estate Satara

Comments are closed.