The ‘Unrentables’

It might sound like a bad cartoon movie, but it’s becoming real life: the ‘unrentables’ are a subset of the 10 million renters in Britain, who find it increasingly hard to find a landlord that will rent a property to them. Impossibly high rents in some parts of the country mean more and more people in work are needing housing benefit (HB) to meet housing costs, a trend that shows no sign of slowing. Over a third (34%) of those claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector are now working.

Yet a National Landlords Association survey indicates that only a fifth of their landlord members are happy to rent to people in receipt of housing benefit. Recent media coverage showed that landlords are exiting the housing benefit market – which means evicting HB claimants, as Fergus Wilson did this week. The reasons Wilson put forward are economic – that it makes more sense for him to rent to non-HB claimants because he can charge them more rent, and they won’t miss payments. But the social implications of landlords refusing to let to any benefit recipient are stark, as one in five households are currently forced to claim housing benefit.

This gloomy picture raises the spectre of ‘benefit blackspots’ – areas where home ownership is a distant dream, and where families find that they don’t earn enough to rent privately without help, but are rejected by landlords who won’t let to them if they need a housing benefit top up.

It seems that landlords’ fear of non-payment of rent is being heightened by concerns and misinformation about payment options under Universal Credit. Under Universal Credit the majority of claimants will receive a single monthly payment, out of which they will have to pay their rent. The majority of those in the private sector already receive their HB this way under Local Housing Allowance – and there are protections in place where claimants struggle to pay rent in the form of managed payments to landlords. The DWP intend to replicate similar protections under Universal Credit for claimants who struggle to pay rent.

At the heart of this dismal phenomenon is an affordability problem. The combination of soaring housing costs, stagnant wages and benefit cuts make it inevitable that more and more ordinary people will struggle to find a decent place to live. And if they do find a home, keeping it will be a struggle. Shelter recently commissioned research by YouGov, and found two thirds of families with children who pay rent or a mortgage are currently struggling or falling behind with their payments, and that over a third of all people expect to struggle to meet their housing costs in 2014.

Families who are struggling to keep up payments or to find suitable accommodation need to take action themselves, and can get advice from Shelter (see on what to do.

But the government must also take action if we are to prevent families being locked out of the rental market by of high rents and poverty profiling by landlords.

We need:



If action is not taken we risk locked out families becoming the housing blockbuster of 2014.

  1. I find it unbelievable that so many people-like myself, pay my landlord 12k per year to pay his mortgage when I can not get on the property ladder myself-simply because I can not save the 35k deposit needed to purchase a suitable three bed home in the area I live in (Avg house price is 230k in Hove). I do not claim housing benefit right now but I find it really worrying that if my circumstances change I may be evicted from my rented property.
    How Fergus Wilson (and other landlords) are able to dictate the private rented market (with no regulation I might add) Is beyond me.
    The cost of rents can not continue at this rate. Even if the LHA rate increases in line with market rents it will not help those who do not claim benefits. I do not understand why more is not being done about this massive housing problem we have.
    I recently asked a letting agent how much someone would need to earn in order to rent their two bed property-they replied ’33k per year or have a guaruntor earning that amount’-the problem is that the average wage in that specific area is 26k.!!!It just makes no sense!More regulation of land lords/letting agents is needed re; suitable properties, less fees, longer tenancy’s and reasonable rents!!

    1. Brighton and Hove are property hot spots. Look at all the trendy people who want to live there.

      You get a a house for half the price in Margate, but it is not the same!

    2. Even if you buy a house for £230k, you are only paying the interest on it. You don’t pay off the loan. At the end of a 25 year mortgage, you still owe the bank £230k. Most tenants (and Landlords) do not understand that.

      1. This is true only if you’ve taken out an interest-only mortgage – actually quite hard to come by these days. Properly amortised repayment mortgages repay both interest and capital. Most people do understand that.

  2. Iam a Landlord and I condone the “some” of the actions of Fergus and Judith Wilson. Evicting those tenants who are not in arrears is wrong.

    Mr Wilson says 50% of his housing benefit tenants are in arrears, that is a staggering number of people. However, the root cause is the LHA system, which was introduced by a Labour government in 2008. It meant instead of the Landlord or Letting agent getting the rent directly form the council, the money went straght into the tenants bank account and it was spent rather then the rent paid. In
    the past, before the LHA schemes, tenant would never fall into arrears.

    Councils and Housing Associations get the rent directly. So private landlords are been treated like mugs. Let be fair, Landlords have been putting up with this for 5 years.

    Is it right the tenant keeps the rent money? If the tenant had undeclared income from casual work, the housing benefit office
    would stop his/her benefits, but when this undeclared income is by keeping the rent money, then it is not undeclared income!

    LHA no longer reflect market rents. In 2012, the LHA was frozen and in 2013, it only went up by 2013.

  3. “Over a third (34%) of those claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector are now working.”

    I suspect, this is because of benefit changes. I know single mothers who have had to take on part-time work.

  4. “It seems that landlords’ fear of non-payment of rent is being heightened
    by concerns and misinformation about payment options under Universal

    The sad fact, is that arrears on from LHA tenants is very high. Tenants frustrate Landlords by keeping phones off. Council offices will not answer phone calls from letting agents.

    LHA tenants are realising they can keep the money and if they are evicted by the landlord, they will be re-housed by the council. (Even though the council has no obligation to re-house tenants).

    To get evict a non-paywho is in arrears involved spending £800 going to court. It is throwing good money after bad.

    Yes, you can go to the Council and say “my tenants is in arrears”, can you pay me directly, but there is a problem. If a tenant has undeclared income, then the council can recover this money from the landlord.

    Councils are playing around. We had a case where the tenant’s rent was stopped for 5 months and the council only re-paid 3 months. The council kept the cash for 2 months rent.The council does not care if the tenant is evicted, as they managed to fleece 2 months from the landlord….

  5. Try finding some where safe to live if you get housing benefit and you need specialised wheelchair accessible housing. Mission Impossible

  6. I agree that impossibly high rents in some
    parts of the country mean more and more people in work are needing housing
    benefit to meet housing costs. Young people and families cannot afford buying
    property. So they need to rent it, that is also not cheap nowadays. Some
    landlords can refuse renting you their property! For example if your workplace
    isn’t stable and you salary is enough to cover monthly payments but not for
    living (they are afraid that you won’t pay them that will cause many problems
    with the eviction).

  7. I have been trying for 3 months to find a studio flat in London that will accept someone on housing allowance, most agents dont respond to emails and once I tell them my circumstances thats it, suddenly communication ceases. I explain that I’m a genuine person who has lived in private rented accommodation for over 5 years and have always paid my rent as I can proof this with reference and never engaged in anti social behaviour but as soon as I tell them I’m unemployed its as if I’ve just told them I’ve escaped from Broadmoor special hospital. You may laugh but it’s soul destroying to be constantly rejected due to being poor. Some Landlords ask me lots of questions such as why dont you have a job? And one failed to turn up at a viewing when I called him later he replied sorry I never read the email properly once I knew you were unemployed my opinion changed? Others want 6 months deposit how can any unemployed person find 6 months? Others tell me when can I view then no sooner have I explained my situation sorry its gone someone has just walked into the office? But mostly its emails ignored or the phone put down. So even with a good reference from previous agent stating I’m a good tenant who keeps the flat in good order and always pays my rent and having a guarantor means nothing because I’m unemployed and it seems a low life to the many letting and estate agents plus landlord’s that I have contacted this last 3 months.Its left me angry and scared as I’m facing the prospect of being homeless for real and thats frightening. My local ward councillor told me she is seeing alot of it and remarked in the sixties it was no Irish, Blacks or dogs now its no unemployed or poor people. Something must be done as this cant be right treating people like me as a sub human.

  8. people dont think about whats going to happen in the future there is no social housing really anymore and so everyone will have to be private there are hardly any landlords that dont use estate agents and there fees are impossible for alot of people once again making housing more accessible to people that have the most money , i am so grateful that im not in great housing need like some people but im a full time carer for my disabled son so yep i have to have lha me and my partner want to relocate to hopefully open a shop in the new area but we cant afford all the fees and they look at us like we are trash! the only hope we have is to find a landlord that doesn’t have other agents involved but are at a disadvantage there aswell as we are not from the local area and as you can imagine these houses are gone before me and my partner even get a sniff

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