It’s business! At least that’s what British landlords Fergus and Judith Wilson will tell you as they politely serve you an eviction notice. The Renowned property investors, and former maths teachers — that impressed everyone with how quickly they accumulated almost a thousand properties — have evicted 200 tenants who receive benefits. This news has come at a similar time to the December figures published by the U.K. National Landlords Association, which revealed 1 in 5 landlords have stopped renting to people on benefits.
Fergus has defended his decision to evict and subsequently deny renters on benefits stating that he does feel bad for the tenants he has to evict, particularly ‘battered wives’ but the fact is, rent is increasing and benefits are decreasing which means landlords are better off with employed tenants rather than those on benefits.
The hesitancy to rent to individuals on benefits is a consequence of the new changes to the housing benefits, which no longer pays renters directly under Universal Credit; additionally renter insurance is no longer available. This is particularly worrisome for smaller landlords who cannot afford to let 2 or 3 months of arrears accrue and because of this there are many tired landlords who need to sell quickly, but the larger landlords such as the Wilson’s will tell you that each house stands on its own and all rent must be paid, regardless of how many houses a landlord owns.
What Does this Mean for Tenants on Benefits?
The actions taken by landlords can be seen a natural consequence of rising housing prices around the U.K. The U.K. has seen an annual house price rise of 8.5% which means tenants on benefits are pushed into arrears and therefore landlords are seeking more reliable payments. According to recent analysis, housing prices around the U.K. could rise by as much as 10% per year for the next 5 years and that could leave people on benefits with no roof over their head. This is creating ‘benefit blackspots’ because individuals on benefits are unable to find accommodation in many areas around the U.K.
When Wilson was asked by the Channel 4 news where tenants on benefits should live, he responded that it’s a problem for the local authorities, but they are at capacity and only single mothers are guaranteed a bed and breakfast. However, a single man over the age of 18 is left with minimal help and options.
There are options for individuals on benefits and also landlords such as a ‘jam jar’ account with a credit union or a Tasker Payment service, which is a payment service to help people who are ‘financially excluded’. There is also the option to ask a family member for a personal guarantee that they will be responsible for rent if a payment is missed.
The problem is not black and white and certainly runs deeper than real estate as the U.K. deals with high unemployment, immigration issues, a greater gap between the haves and have not’s, and increasing number of people under the poverty line. Many Britons have accused landlords such as the Wilson’s of being unsympathetic, greedy, and leaving those who need a helping hand left struggling. However, Wilson says that in his experience those who are employed never miss a rent payment while those who are benefits have more than 50% in arrears so the decision is simple – it’s simply business.