In the UK the number of households in the private rented sector increased from 2.8 million in 2007 to 4.5 million in 2017, an increase of 1.7 million (63%) .
Although many tenants – especially those under 35 – enjoy the flexibility renting offers, the main reason for the increased number of tenants is the unaffordability of homes as people struggle to get on the housing ladder.
Following on from my last Blog I thought we should look at what you can do to find a home if you’re in receipt of benefits and a Section 21 Notice
Firstly, I would get yourself on the council house waiting list. Contact your local authority to apply for council housing
Each council has its own rules, but generally it takes about 28 days to process your application and assess your need on a points based system. If you are homeless or about to be evicted, you’ll be given higher priority. You’ll be given a banding (for example gold – high priority, silver – priority, and so on) and placed on a waiting list from which you can bid for suitable housing association properties. For more advice see https://www.gov.uk/council-housing
Obviously, there can be a stigma attached to living in a council house, but if you’re going to be homeless the advantages of a roof over your head at an affordable rent without threat of eviction can outweigh this.
If you prefer to rent from a private landlord, you need to prove you are going to be a good tenant. In July 2020, the court ruled that all landlords and letting agents shouldn’t refuse to rent properties just because a prospective tenant claims benefits, but some still do. Your local authority Housing Options or Housing Advice Service might keep a list of private landlords who accept tenants on housing benefit or housing costs under universal credit.
Housing benefit is calculated on a case-by-case basis depending on the average cost of rent where you live, the number of bedrooms you need minus the amount you can afford to pay (based on earned income). Obviously the closer the rent is to the amount of housing benefit you receive the less the remaining balance you have to pay. https://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/About-Local-Housing-Allowance
Some landlords will rent to tenants claiming benefits if the rent is paid directly to them rather than the tenant, and this can be arranged in some circumstances.
It is not uncommon for the Landlord or Agent to ask for a guarantor, particularly when a tenant has a low credit score or is considered a risk category – such as benefit claimants or students. The harsh reality is the current economic climate means every tenant is a risk. Being a guarantor is a serious undertaking as the person is effectively the Landlord’s insurance policy against Tenant default. A guarantor pays the landlord if the tenant falls behind with the rent, damages the property or fails to carry out any other obligations under the agreement.
References from previous landlords vouching for your suitability as a tenant may also help, as may copies of bank statements – but this seems intrusive.
Offering to pay more than one month’s rent in advance might appeal to hesitant landlords, but this is not always feasible in addition to a deposit.
Finally, as a last resort, you could contact the housing charity Shelter.
‘No-one needs to face bad housing or homelessness alone. Last year over 5 million people turned to Shelter for advice.’ https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help