In the array of things that I’ve heard from the (now) 25 or so lettings agencies about why landlords won’t take someone on Housing Benefit in my area of London, the one that stuck in my mind above all others was this:
“The Council will tell tenants to remain in properties if they want their properties back. They can’t get rid of them without evicting them. It’s costly and it takes ages and they have to go to court to do it.”
In this post about the local estate agent who told me this and I fought back I explain what my stock answer to this has been:
“They won’t tell me to do that because the Council aren’t involved with my situation. They don’t know about the move, I haven’t told them about it, they aren’t advising me about it and they’ll only know when I take the new contract to them and they see the change of address and landlord.”
Seriously – having Council input? Ho ho ho *wipes eyes.*
The Council are PATENTLY not helping me with my situation. I’m doing this entirely on my own – there isn’t even a preferred landlord list that the Council hold that they can offer ‘their’ tenants in private rented accommodation. Some Councils have this – my local Council ask Landlords to volunteer but have NO TAKERS! None!
So I was very surprised at this reason for not letting to me – a disabled Housing Benefit claimant.
Not all of them did, I should add, but some of them did.
Some followed this up by saying that they wouldn’t be doing their job properly if they didn’t advise landlords of this. The very nature of being on Housing Benefit, in their eyes, is a risk because of what my local (London) Council says. That’s usually when I started politely being assertive back at them, giving them my spiel.
I must admit, every time I heard it, I thought this was an overstatement of something that had happened once in a while with some tenants. I took it as an excuse; I thought it might be something that had happened once with one landlord or so and it’s spread around letting agency-land like wildfire, part of the negative view of Housing Benefit claimants.
I mean, it’s so far away from my situation in finding somewhere to rent that it might as well be another country. I’m not a social tenant, I thought. I’m a tenant on Housing Benefit who has chosen to find somewhere new to live. No-one is involved with that but me.
But no! It turns out I was wrong!!
Here’s a conversation I had with someone in the Housing Benefit office in my local Council. The phone call was about me changing address but I was bringing it up because I wanted a letter sent to me, to say that they wouldn’t advise me this way if a landlord wanting a property I was renting returned to them.
I was then going to send that to the lettings agents. Problem solved.
This is what happened:
Me: “…the thing is that I’m having trouble with some of the agents…”
Nice voice in the Council Housing Benefit team: “Uh huh…”
Me: “…yes, they tell me that they won’t rent to me because the Council – your department that is – will advise me to remain in the property and get evicted if the landlord wants the prop….”
I was interrupted at the end of the sentence:
Nice voice in the Council Housing Benefit team: “Any Council will say that. Any Council would. We can’t help you unless you are homeless, if you aren’t homeless we can’t do anything at all.”
I was so wrong-footed that I forgot where I was and what I was doing. All I managed was a feeble, “Yes but that is causing the problem. That’s the problem – If that wasn’t the case then I’d….”
I was interrupted again by the nice voice in the Council Housing Benefit team: “We can’t help you unless you are homeless..”
I found my feet in the conversation:
Me: “But that’s not my situation, you know that I was forced to move because of disrepair in the property, I’ve applied for a council house, I didn’t get above Band D, despite being disabled, I tried everything to get my landlord to do the repairs. This is my last chance, to find somewhere myself, I mean. That’s not manipulating landlords, that’s being proactive and solving the problem myself. I can tell you it’s not easy, not easy at all.
Nice voice in the Council Housing Benefit team signed off the call. “Good luck,” he said.
“Thanks.” Was my reply.
WTF. If anyone is reading this from government or a charity who is looking at solutions to the housing crisis in London you can start by reading this and then add the lessons learned from what I’ve said in this post to that list.
© Lindy 2015