The Government has failed to bring in measures that would end the Rent Debt Crisis. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, set aside no additional funding in yesterday’s Budget to pay off rent arrears accrued under the pandemic, or to increase Local Housing Allowance to cover actual rents.
The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on families living in private rented homes. Over half are now reliant on benefits to pay the rent – including 1.82 million children. That’s an increase of 23% since February.
Yet, one in five families renting from a private landlord currently receive less in benefits than they need to pay their rent, our research has found. This leaves 378,000 families in England with a shortfall. More disturbingly, this figure includes 750,000 children living in households with this shortfall.
There’s been some good news this month for people facing discrimination in the private rental market – because of how they pay their rent, or because of who they are.
Buy-to-let mortgage conditions
First, Natwest announced that it would lift “all restrictions on landlords renting to tenants who are in receipt of housing benefits”.
It was hard yesterday not to have some sympathy with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett after that painful interview. But coming unstuck on the numbers or not, it highlighted the point that they are the only party with a shot of winning seats (in England at least) that actually has a target for building significant numbers of social homes and which has identified private sector landlords as the ideal source for funding this.
Astonishing figures recently published by the GMB union show the huge profits that landlords in the private rented sector are making through housing benefit payments.
The numbers show how the welfare bill is directly inflated by the huge rents that landlords are charging to their tenants on housing benefit, costing the state millions each year and ending up in the pockets of a small number of people
Back in October, we learned that Natwest had asked one of its buy-to-let customers to either evict her tenant, who was receiving housing benefit, or pay a draconian fee to switch her mortgage.
The bank’s terms and conditions prohibited customers from letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. Yet another example of a bank discriminating against low-income households and fuelling the “No DSS” culture. But this time, 62% of the bank is owned by the government, i.e. us.
The landlord has started a petition urging the government to stop this practice by high street banks, and it’s nearly at 5000 signatures.