A property website specialising in LHA tenants says the current media rhetoric around tenants on benefits is stigmatising the LHA market.
DSSmove.co.uk, a website tenants searching for LHA properties, claims Channel 4’s controversial ‘Benefits Street’ and Fergus Wilson, the Kent-based professional landlord who recently announced that he will no longer be accept benefit tenants, are giving a heavily distorted impression of the market.
According to Aki Ellahi, director of Dssmove.co.uk, the vast majority of benefit tenants are not like this at all:
“I have currently 500 tenants on benefits and achieve a rent collection record of 100%. Unfortunately in any market, there are bad apples and Channel 4 has searched for and found an unsympathetic example of unemployed people, portraying them in the worst possible light. The programme does not give an accurate reflection of the market – just compelling TV, for some. What’s more, Fergus Wilson’s attack on benefit tenants looks like no more than a calculated commercial move to take advantage of the swell of the immigrant market it Kent. If our borders weren’t so open to immigrants, would Mr Wilson be turning his back on the DSS market?
“Landlords that are refusing to take on benefit tenants are extremely short-sighted. The facts are that out of 30 LHA tenants, there will be one headache and out of every 100, there will be a big problem. This is no different from professional tenants. Many landlords that are rejecting LHA tenants are citing Universal Credit as the reason. The fear of Universal Credit is unfounded. What landlords don’t realise is that it gives landlords the opportunity to have a direct relationship with the tenant on housing benefit, so any problems can be sorted quickly.
“Universal Credit puts LHA tenants on the same footing as private tenants. Both markets suffer from arrears and I would advise any landlord to use a Credit Union to collect rent. My experience over the years has shown me that tenants do not want the hassle of dealing with housing benefit. Although they understand that they need to apply for housing benefit, they prefer if the landlord or an agent, who can assist them with doing this on their behalf, as this has been the case for as long as l can remember.“