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Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Lawful Tenants Refused Rental Properties
Because Of Right To Rent Immigration Checks

Right to Rent immigration checks could cause more UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords to refuse tenancy applications from lawful tenants because they are over cautious about letting to tenants with foreign accents and names or have unfamiliar identity documents.

According to the Residential Landlords Association, (RLA), the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into unpaid Border Agency staff could see lawful tenants being refused housing.

The warning comes as new research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) indicates the difficulties caused by the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, originally piloted in the West Midlands, concluding that UK PRS landlords Right to Rent checks have resulted in discrimination against tenants who appear “foreign”.

The JCWI research discovered that:

  • 42% of landlords were less likely to consider tenant applications from someone who did not have a British passport,
  • 27% of landlords were reluctant to engage with tenancy applications from people with foreign accents or names

Under the new immigration bill, PRS landlords are set to be legally responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants. Following the pilot scheme in the West Midlands, the Government recently announced that the immigration checks by landlords would be expanded nationwide, with landlords facing up to five years in prison for failure to undertake the Right to Rent checks.

Residential Landlords Association policy director, David Smith, said: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety for many landlords. If the Government expect landlords to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them. In the absence of such support, today’s research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy which the RLA has long voiced concerns about. Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them. It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the Right to Rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area. Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its rollout to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”

The research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants comes before the publication of the Home Office’s own assessment of the Right to Rent pilot scheme detailing its level of effectiveness.

There seems to be a huge communication breakdown somewhere, we as landlords are now unpaid members of the UK Border Agency, like it or not, we mustn’t discriminate against any tenant applicant because it is an “ism” and can be punished by imprisonment and a large fine, however, if we house someone in need, we leave ourselves open to prosecution and a large fine. If we act in a professional manner, we are accused of not caring, but if we have too much contact with tenants we are seen as overbearing and interfering. If we spend money on properties we are seen as rich money grabbers that are open to exploitation and if we don’t spend vast amounts to correct damage caused by tenant lifestyles as and when tenants demand then we are called tight and heartless. Homeless charities want the UK PRS closed down, the Government want as much of our profits as they can get their hands on and the media think we are all descendants of Rachman and Rigsby – How is the system supposed to work?

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New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

Research from an independent consortium led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University covering the impact of recent Housing Benefit reform in the private rented sector was published on Monday 13th May.

The report examined the attitudes of tenant claimants and private rented sector buy-to-let landlords in 19 areas across the UK, following the Housing Benefit and Welfare Reforms that were ordered by the coalition Government in April 2011.

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform said:”Reform of Housing Benefit in the private rented sector was absolutely necessary to control a system that saw spending double over a decade to more than £20 Billion (GBP) a year. However, it is also necessary to monitor and follow the reforms to help us build and learn for the future”.

Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), said:”This report provides findings from in-depth interviews undertaken with tenant claimants, landlords and housing advisors in early stages of the implementation of the reforms.

The CRESR also conducted separate analysis of all UK Housing Benefit claims to provide an insight to the initial impacts of the welfare reforms across the UK.

The CRESR report finds:

  • Large numbers of tenants claiming benefits have not been forced to move out of rental properties during the study
  • In 120 UK local authority areas, overall reductions to a tenant’s Housing Benefit / Local Housing Allowance (LHA) have been averaged at £5 (GBP) or less
  • The extra £130 Million (GBP) of support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to local authorities to help tenant claimants with Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) has assisted tenant claimants well where Housing Benefit / LHA reductions have been greater than the national average.

The consortium is led by Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies, from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. Other key team members included Peter Kemp of Oxford Institute of Social Policy, Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Ben Marshall from IPSOS-MORI.

The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK’s leading academic research centres specialising in social and economic regeneration, housing and labour market analysis.

The consortium’s research started in April 2011 and will run until this Autumn (2013) and covers the effects of:

  • Setting Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates from the median to the 30th percentile of local market rents from April 2011
  • Capping Local Housing Allowance rates by property size from April 2011 to:
    • £250 per week for 1 bed
    • £290 per week for two bed
    • £340 per week for three bed
    • £400 per week for four bed or more
  • The increased Government contribution to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budget
  • Increased powers of local authorities to make direct payments to landlords to support tenant claimants in order to retain and secure tenancies in the private rental sector.
  • Allowing an additional bedroom within the size criteria used to assess Housing Benefit claims in the Private Rented Sector where a disabled person, or someone with a long-term health condition, has a proven need for overnight care and it is provided by a non-resident carer who requires a bedroom.

The full research ‘Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report’ is available here: Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report

The Scottish Government along with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) and Welsh Assembly Government are working in close partnership with the DWP and each contributing to the costs of the review.

Further CRESR reports are expected to be published in early 2014.

Landlords’ right to receive direct rent payments from Local Authorities will be scrapped under the new benefit system.

As correctly pointed out to “Spotlight” by reader Paul Barrett, the details of the Government’s new procedures for the implementation and payment of Universal Credit have been released and a private landlord’s right to insist on direct rent payments will be scrapped.

There will be increasing amounts of landlords that will now refuse to take Housing Benefit claimants because of the system rather than the claimants themselves

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents around 15,000 private landlords, have reacted angrily to the proposals, stating that when the new benefit system is introduced in April 2013, payments will be made directly to tenants and it will be up to the tenant to pay their rent or not.

Currently, Private Rental Sector (PRS) landlords can ask for Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to be paid directly to them if the tenant is more than 8 weeks in rent arrears or if the tenant is deemed vulnerable.

With the new Universal Credit system due to come into force next year, including  benefits such as local housing allowance, the new procedures will apply across the board to local authority tenants, housing association tenants and tenants in the private rented sector.

The RLA have raised a number of serious concerns about the proposals, saying that there is no right of redress for UK landlords if things go wrong, and that the whole concept creates risk for landlords. It has also attacked the proposals for lack of clarity, saying they have replaced ‘regulations’ with ‘guidance’.

It says that landlords will become increasingly unwilling to accept tenants on benefits.

RLA policy director, Richard Jones, said: “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed, and although the objective of helping tenants to manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this. There will be a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants (at a time when there is huge pressure on social housing), increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property (or increased interest rate to reflect the risk), much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has a new vision of the welfare state. He wants state benefits to be a safety net – and nothing more!,

The Prime Minister outlined future radical changes which on top of existing plans, could save the UK an extra £10 Billion (GBP) by 2016.

Government ministers expect this “next wave” of benefit cuts to include the axing of all housing benefit currently paid to around 380,000 people aged under 25.

Such a move would force many young adults to move back in with their parents rather than living independently.

Another controversial reform which could come in further down the line is setting benefit payments regionally – which would mean less money going to claimants who live in less-expensive parts of the country.

Some Tory MPs say the current system is unfair – with differing “incentives” on people to seek work depending on where they live. Liberal Democrats, however, would be likely to oppose any such changes.

The Prime Minister said his overall aim in reforming welfare was to stop people “languishing on the dole and dependency”.

Here are some of the welfare reforms Mr Cameron is considering

• Stopping most under-25s claiming housing benefit. Cameron said the government was spending almost £2bn a year on housing benefit for this group, and that 210,000 people aged 16 to 24 were social housing tenants. Many of them could live with their parents, he suggested.

• Scrapping the non-dependent deduction. Cameron said people could lose up to £74 a week in housing benefit if they have an adult child living with them. That “doesn’t seem right”, he said.

• Cutting benefits for the under-21s. Cameron said that in Holland the benefit system does not normally help the under-21s. When it does, benefits are set at a low level, and parents are expected to top them up.

• Ending subsidised social housing for the wealthy. Cameron said that between 12,000 and 34,000 families on more than £60,000 a year, and between 1,000 and 6,000 families on more than £100,000 a year, were living in council homes. “When you have people on £70,000 a year living for £90 or so a week in London’s most expensive postcodes you have to ask whether this is the best use of public resources,” he said.

• Uprating benefits in line with wage inflation instead of price inflation when price inflation is much higher. Cameron said in September benefits went up by 5.2% (inflation) even though workers were getting much lower pay rises. “Given that so many working people are struggling to make ends meet we have to ask whether this is the right approach,” Cameron said.

• Cutting benefits for the long-term unemployed. Cameron said that when the Americans decided to time-limit benefits in the 1990s, case-loads fell by more than 50%. “Instead of US-style time-limits – which remove entitlements altogether – we could perhaps revise the levels of benefits people receive if they are out of work for literally years on end,” he said.

• Cutting housing benefit further.
The government has already introduced a benefit cap to stop a relatively small number of families claiming exorbitant sums in housing benefit. But Cameron said this would still allow people to receive up to £20,000 a year in housing benefit. “Surely we should ask if it’s fair that the maximum amount that you can get on housing benefit is set at a level that only the top five per cent of earners would otherwise be able to afford,” he said.

• Stopping people from claiming child-related benefits if they have more than a certain number of children. Cameron did not say how many children, but he quoted the number of people on income support with three or more children (150,000) and four or more children (57,000), implying benefits could be capped at two children.

• Requiring people on out-of-work benefits to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills.

• Requiring people on out-of-work benefits to prepare a CV.

• Requiring able people on out-of-work benefits to do full-time community work after a certain period. In Australia this was standard after just six months, Cameron said.

• Requiring people on sickness benefits to improve their health. “Today if someone is signed off work with a bad back there’s no requirement to take steps to get well to keep on receiving that benefit – even if they could be getting free physiotherapy to get back to health and start working again,” Cameron said.

• Requiring more single parents to work – or at least to prepare for work. Cameron said the government was already forcing single parents to look for work when their youngest child reaches five, not seven as before. But, with free nursery care available from the age of three, there was a case for changing the rules again, he said. “Even if there’s no scope for actually working, there should at least be for preparing to work: getting down to the job centre; writing a CV; learning new skills.”

• Imposing tougher restrictions on people claiming benefits if they have never worked than if they have paid tax and national insurance for years before submitting a claim.

• Stopping teenagers from claiming benefits as soon as they leave school. Cameron said he wanted to ask “if it’s right that people continue to have the option of leaving school and going straight onto benefits, without ever having contributed to the system in any way.”

• Stopping paying winter fuel payments and other non-contributory benefits to people who live abroad.

• Stopping paying some benefits in cash and paying them instead in benefits in kind, like free school meals.

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