Tory Majority Day 62: The Search For Affordable Housing On Housing Benefit In London Continues

Is it Friday already. Hello Friday morning. ūüôā

Hello a more restful day filled with things other than rounds of phone calls to estate agents and viewing flats. Hello the day I go to see Crystal Tipps and get out of my flat and look around outside and think about different things. Hello a day I pop into see my good friend on the way back and talk about stuff that makes us laugh.

I like Fridays ūüôā

The search for my next home is exactly like internet dating except much, much more expensive.

I want to write this morning in case anyone is reading this and going through the same situation…

There’ll be estate agents who slam the door in your face, no matter how much you use the word ‘guarantor’ and ‘excellent rental record.’ I now know not to even go there with any properties they are advertising.

I’ve tried, I’ve been nice, persuasive, explained my situation, told them my age, explained it will be a long let, you name it, I’ve said it, but they won’t even think about it.

The email with bullet points in it 

I’ve got a standard email I send to agents filled with bullet points about My Situation. I call them first, explain on the phone, ask for their email address and then send it through.

The bullet points summarise what I’ve said:

  • I’m in my 40s and¬†looking for a home and a very long let – I’m prepared to sign a contract for over a year if the Landlord prefers
  • I am disabled and in receipt of Housing Benefit – the Housing Benefit I am entitled to will cover the rent
  • I do not need any adaptations to the property
  • I can live anywhere, it doesn’t matter if it has stairs
  • I stay in properties for a long time and have an excellent rental payment record
  • The Council pays my benefits directly into my bank account and I pay my landlord from there – I’m prepared to share at least 6 months of bank statements showing these payments
  • I have a guarantor in case the landlord would like one
  • I have all the finances in place to move quickly
  • My current landlord needs my flat to do extensive repairs, as it is cold and damp. He has given me a flexible moving date so I am able to move whenever suits the landlord
Then I add: “I hope that helps. I am prepared to speak directly to the landlord if they’d like to as well.”
What about the estate agents who say yes?

There are good estate agents that have a totally different view from the ones that slam a door in my face immediately. These are the ones I’ve been talking to most often.

What’s clear is that you are going to HAVE to have a guarantor. In this post¬†¬†I explained what your Guarantor will need.

I’m also slowly realising that I am going to have to use some of my monthly ESA to pay for rent, if I want a home that is halfway decent, that is. Yup. Probably up to ¬£100.00 of it. I know. I know. That’s a lot out of very little.

Paying rent from ESA – why?

The Coalition government introduced the policy that there was a Housing Benefit cap. Before that your local council would simply cover your rent if you qualified, period. What happens if your Housing Benefit doesn’t cover your rent? – you have to pay the rest from your ESA. Yup.

Which means I’ll have much, much less to live on, but I’ll swap having a crappy illness-producing home for health. That’s the compromise.

Good agents 

One high street estate agent has been brilliant. They simply told me that my situation was irrelevant to them – they’ll reference my guarantor and not me and because of that, I’ll find somewhere easily. I’m hanging on to that.

£900.00 pcm does not buy you a postage stamp in London. £1000.00 per month is more like it.

I am still battling with some agents though. Initially positive, one very well known high street name simply won’t return my calls now. Early this week they promised a flat with a landlord who was ‘flexible.’ That’s estate agent-speak for a landlord who will consider students, Housing Benefit tenants etc.

Overnight something must have happened because all day yesterday I waited to hear back from Ellie or Alice and nothing, nada, even when I left a nice message asking them to.

On the way back from one viewing yesterday I went past their office and there they were, sitting in the desks that face the front window, staring at computer screens intently.

If you think that doesn’t hurt, it does. It also wastes my time and puts me off dealing with them again. I’ll remember that in the future if I ever get back to work. I won’t call them again.

The viewings, energy and brain fog

I’ve viewed 5 flats this week. When I ran out of energy my silver surfer Dad took me – I need help because of the energy I use travelling around. Thankfully he’s free during the day and has a car.

“I’m the heart,” I said to the estate agent who raised an eyebrow at a woman in her 40s bringing her Dad along, “he’s the head.”

Dad saw things I’d missed and we both could talk about it afterwards. That also helps with¬†brain fog too because your mind isn’t getting over-full with stuff, you can tip it out.

That’s one of the reasons why I go to counselling weekly, if I have too much stuff in my head or heart, it affects my brain fog and energy. I tip things out there – it really helps me cope with energy problems.

Postage stamp flats

If anyone reading this is under any illusions about what Housing Benefit can buy you in London, I can smash your ideals to smithereens.

¬£900.00 pcm buys you a studio flat in London, just. I’ve seen 3 this week and they were the size of half a living room. With furniture in them, you’d have about 3 square feet to move around in. One wouldn’t fit a bed.

Council flat and social housing schemes

Another illusion – if you think selling off affordable housing in London is going to make this situation any better I can laugh you out of town. It’s already a problem.

Here’s a conversation about landlord’s attitudes to Housing Benefit clients¬†I had with one estate agent yesterday:

“The thing is that our landlords know they can command that rent and also have a ready market of people who fit their preferred profile. They want single professionals or professional couples…”

“So are you saying it’s not even worth having that conversation with them about me?”

“With that property there is a lot of interest from people who fit the preferred profile and it will easily let to one of those, so there’s no advantage for a landlord to consider your situation.”

“Right. OK. Not even with a guarantor?”

“As I said, that doesn’t make a difference. They don’t have to consider you, you see. The market is so strong that we’ve had people ring and ask to put down a deposit without even a viewing. I’ve advised them not to do that, but even if your guarantor fits the profile, you don’t and they will not consider you.”

If you are a landlord reading this, here’s something a private Landlord once said to me:

“I never understand the problems people have with Housing Benefit. It’s easy. The council pays you direct. In many ways it’s better than a salary….”

Time will run out in this search eventually and if I haven’t found anywhere, with no council or affordable housing, what will happen to me then?

© Lindy 2015

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