Smokers, benefit claimants and students top the list of undesirable tenants according to a new YouGov survey by property classifieds site TheHouseShop.com. We speak to a range of people involved in the rental industry, from tenants who have lied on their applications, to landlords and letting agents, and discover some interesting realities that parallel the survey findings.
YouGov Survey Results
Question asked: Please imagine you are a landlord and are looking to rent out one of your properties in the UK... In general, which, if any, of the following types of people do you think you would not want to rent out your property to?
Top 4 Results from the list:
· Smokers – 64%
· People using DSS (i.e. those claiming housing benefits) – 44%
· Students – 40%
· People with pets – 34%
There is no doubt that the rental market is tough; with rental properties in such high demand, there is fierce competition and multiple tenants chasing each listing. To make yourself stand out from other competing tenants, you’d probably want to make yourself appear to be the perfect applicant. But, do you really know what your landlord is looking for?
According to a recent YouGov survey, carried out by property classifieds site smokers, benefits claimants, students and people with pets would be the least desirable tenants. The results show that smokers are seen to be the least desirable of all from the list, with 64% of the 2033 people TheHouseShop.com, surveyed saying they would not want to rent to a smoker. People using DSS or housing benefit, students and people with pets received 44%, 40% and 34% respectively.
But, what is the reality of not getting a tenancy based on your undesirable qualities?
One way around being declined for a tenancy would be to lie on your application. Although lying about housing benefit would be quickly picked up during the application process, it turns out that quite a few people lie when it comes to keeping animals and smoking. One tenant we spoke to admitted to lying on their application:
“My landlord still doesn’t know that I smoke or that I had pets! Even though I looked through my contract and it said that I could smoke and keep animals if I asked the landlord first, I still lied on my application as there would’ve been a chance that they would reject my application, which I obviously didn’t want to happen.”
Vanessa Warwick, who is a professional landlord and co-founder of Property Tribes, says that she imposes a no-smoking rule for all of her properties, and has heard of landlords declining perspective tenants for the same reason.
Vanessa also found that, while smokers have been given a tough time by landlords, the most common reason to be rejected for a tenancy is that the tenant is in receipt of Local Housing Allowance, otherwise known as housing benefit.
While there is somewhat of a grey area when it comes to the legality of a blanket ban on housing benefit claimants, there is indeed a preconceived idea that these applicants would not pay their rent on time and that they would keep the property in poor condition.
During our research, we discovered that the general approach towards housing benefit claimants within certain parts of the letting agency industry is cautious at best, and discriminatory at worst. A Kent based lettings agent, who would like to remain anonymous, states that her agency doesn’t deal with housing benefits claimants as they are seen to be high risk:
“Up until a few years ago, we dealt with a lot of people claiming housing benefit and had no issues. The benefits money was paid directly to the lettings agent or landlord on time and the properties were kept in very good condition.
However, since changes have been made to the benefits system, the money is now paid directly to the claimant, rather than the agent or landlord, and while most people will use the money to pay their rent, a few would spend it at the pub or elsewhere, and have ruined it for everyone else - they all get tarred with the same brush.”
A former employee of a prominent London-based letting agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained their experience of handling enquiries from tenants looking for properties available for rent using DSS or LHA:
“I was essentially told by my managers that “No, we just don’t deal with housing benefit – the fact of the matter is we have plenty of self-sufficient tenants queuing round the block for rentals, and an applicant using housing benefit wouldn’t stand a chance, so don’t waste your time (and our time) leading them on”.
However, it seems that not all lettings agents are so quick to dismiss LHA claimants. Mark Franks, of BPS Lettings based in Maidstone, Kent, explains his experience and views of handing housing benefits enquiries:
“Currently between 35% and 45% of tenants in private rented accommodation are in receipt of Housing Benefit to some degree.
As an agent I usually receive four main objections from landlords when considering tenants in receipt of benefit: Recovery of overpayments, the tenant’s creditworthiness, lower rental prices (LHA not matching market) and poor administration.
Whilst these points are certainly risks that cannot be ignored, it needs to be understood that the issues here have only been experienced by about 4% of claimants. The unfair reality is that 96% of claimants are condemned by what is essentially an ‘income’ discrimination.
In my opinion the risks posed by benefit claimants are no greater than the risks posed by ANY other tenant, but housing benefits claimants are being discriminated against due to unfair preconceptions.”
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