Housing charity Crisis has revealed that homeless people are finding it more difficult to access private rental sector housing, as changes to benefits have made landlords more reluctant to let properties to them.
The charity says that people are finding themselves trapped in homelessness, with the ever-expanding rental market leading to high upfront costs and a shortage of properties to rent.
Crisis’s survey of over 800 landlords found that 82% were unwilling to let to people who did not already have a fixed address, and that direct payments of Universal Credit and housing benefit have made two-thirds more reluctant to do so.
Almost a fifth of landlords said that they required larger deposits from homeless tenants, while 16% admitted to increasing the rent.
When it surveyed local authorities around the country, the charity found that 84% reported that over the last five years, it has become harder for single homeless people to rent private property.
The main reason that landlords claimed they were unwilling to rent to homeless people was a supposed risk of rent arrears – around three-quarters believed they would need to do more management of the property. Landlords fearing rent arrears should consider rent guarantee insurance, which ensures that they still get paid, even if tenants fall into rent arrears.
The Chief Executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, comments: “In a competitive rental market, homeless people are increasingly left with fewer opportunities to rent, and many simply can’t afford the upfront costs.
“This is a desperate situation to be in; to be ready to move on and start rebuilding your life, only to encounter financial barriers and closed doors.”
Crisis has launched a campaign, Home: No Less Will Do, calling for the Government to create and underwrite a national rent deposit guarantee scheme to help homeless people and to fund projects that offer tenancy support to tenants and landlords.
“We need action to tackle this homelessness trap,” adds Sparkes. “The Government already helps first time buyers struggling for a deposit; it’s only fair they extend this help to those who need it most.”1
The Head of Policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), Chris Norris, believes that such schemes to help homeless people into private rental housing could also help to reassure landlords.
He says: “Many landlords will be anxious about renting to a homeless person – they worry about whether they’ll be able to pay the rent, or if they’ll need more support compared with other tenants. And unfortunately, this perceived risk can become an obstacle to that person finding a place to live.”1
The campaign arrives as the latest data for rough sleeping in England is set to be published.
The most recent figures, released in February 2015, showed a 15% rise in the amount of people sleeping on the streets. The latest statistics from charities found that the number of rough sleepers in London has more than doubled in the last five years.
Would you let your rental property to a homeless person?