Talk to any landlord or letting agent and they're likely to have strong opinions about renting properties to people claiming housing benefit. Whichever side of the fence you sit, accepting tenants who rely on help from the government to pay their rent remains a contentious issue.
Stereotyping still exists and is, quite frankly, appalling. We should be horrified by the lack of respect, understanding and common decency that people claiming benefits face daily.
Yes, it's true there are some who play the system but the majority are doing their level best to deal with the unfortunate circumstances they find themselves in. Over many years I've dealt with thousands of tenants claiming housing benefit who have really struggled to find a home. And make no mistake – it is a home they're looking for.
Research shows that people on housing benefit regard the place they live as a permanent rather than a short-term let; one of our tenants has just celebrated 34 years living in the same property.
We now face the biggest upheaval to the welfare system in recent times, but this shouldn't be viewed as a problem. After all, private landlords will still be providing the same services they do now, albeit using a different system.
There will be a period of adjustment needed, but this is also a time of opportunity for the private rented sector.
At a property event I attended recently, I was shocked to hear one landlord naively declare he would not be renting any of his properties to a person on housing benefit. My company, Rent Me Now, is proof of the commercial opportunities this market offers to letting agents or landlords, now more than ever as the number of working households claiming housing benefit has doubled since 2008.
Through an online portal, Dssmove, I am attempting to create a network of like-minded agents and landlords with properties still available to those claiming benefits. One agent told me that next year he will increase the benefit side of his business to 50% thanks to the solid success he'd had in supporting these families.
Over 30 years, rents have risen rapidly. Regardless of what the housing market is doing, renting to tenants on housing benefit has not caused any sharp spikes in our business. Even when the banks began collapsing five years ago and the UK faced mass unemployment, our recession-proof business model wasn't affected. If anything, demand for these properties increased because of the lack of social housing in this sector generally.
With the economy still struggling to pull itself out of recession, landlords and letting agents should put their prejudices aside and ask themselves the question: can I continue to ignore such a substantial part of the private rented sector?
Aki Ellahi is founder of Dssmove.co.uk