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Home - No Less Will Do (2016)

06.04.2016 864 XX

This research examines the barriers single homeless people face accessing the private rented sector. It surveyed over 900 landlords, homeless people and local authority officers to unpick the effect of policy changes in the social and private housing markets and letting practices across England and Scotland.

Key findings

  • Although the private rented sector has expanded significantly in recent years, access to the sector remains severely restricted for homeless people. The private landlords surveyed were generally reluctant to rent to people in receipt of Housing Benefit, and even more reluctant to rent to people they know to be homeless.
  • Government policy is compounding the difficulties faced by homeless people and benefit claimants trying to enter the private rented sector. Around two thirds of landlords reported that direct payment of housing benefit to the tenant was making them less willing to rent to benefit claimants (68%) and/or to homeless people (66%), while a similar proportion of those currently renting to these tenants reported only doing so if Housing Benefit is paid to the landlord.
  • Difficulties finding accommodation within the local housing allowance rate was also an issue raised by homelessness service users as well as by local authority officers, nearly all of whom reported that local housing allowance rates were inadequate in their area and that there was a shortage of accommodation available at the shared accommodation rate. A significant proportion of landlords said they were concerned about arrears, property damage and a perceived need for more intensive management in relation to these tenants. To mitigate these perceived risks, landlords acknowledged putting in place additional safeguards when renting to benefit claimants and to homeless people, effectively imposing a premium on these prospective tenants.
  • Access costs emerged as a key barrier preventing homeless people from accessing the private rented sector - and these costs can be higher for homeless people than for other potential tenants. The most common difficulties encountered by homelessness service users related to costs. The requirement for a deposit alone was often enough to prevent access to a private rented tenancy, but agent fees and advance rent were also significant barriers.
  • There are landlord incentives that could be put in place to lift barriers to access for homeless people and/or benefit claimants. Evidence from landlords suggested a suite of measures that would motivate landlords to let to this group. Many landlords stated that, if they were paid the rent directly, this would make them more likely to rent to local housing allowance claimants.

Reference

Reeve, K., Cole, I., Batty, E., Foden, M., Green, S. & Pattison, B. (2016) Home No less will do Homeless people’s access to the Private Rented Sector. London: Crisis.

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