There is an assumption that landlords are becoming increasingly wary of letting out their properties to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. It is feared that this number will rise with the introduction of the Universal Credit scheme in April.
As part of this scheme, housing benefit will be paid directly to tenants as opposed to landlords. It is feared that this will lead to an increase in rent arrears.
The difficult economic climate has led to an increased need for landlords to let out their properties to people on housing benefit. With this in mind, one letting agent in particular is trying to make the process simpler.
DSSmove is a new website that offers a service putting those in receipt of housing benefit in direct contact with prospective landlords and letting agents. More importantly, the site only puts the tenant in contact with those landlords or agents willing to deal with them. To date, over 250 agencies have already signed up.
Aki Ellahi, founder of the site, said the time was right to act. He said, ‘currently there are over five million people claiming Local Housing Allowance and this is set to grow over the next two to three years as we face a tough economic period and continued austerity measures from the Government.’
‘Some landlords and agents are wary of letting to people on housing benefit, but we have been doing it for years through our lettings agency without problems. In many inner-city areas in the South-West, Wales, Midlands and the North-East and North-West, LHA rates are sometimes higher than the market rent. For example, a two-bed LHA rate in Wolverhampton is £450 and many properties are on the open market at £350-£400.’
Ellahi claims that some corporate agents have, ‘spotted the gap and are moving more into this market.’ He goes on to say, for many landlords and agents across the UK – especially in the North – there will be no choice about accepting LHA tenants in 2013 and beyond.” Landlords who are concerned about letting to LHA tenants may soon have a change of heart when they realise that the demand is so high and the risks are actually relatively low, especially if they are protected by landlord insurance.’
One company that has already signed up to the site is Intercity Accommodation. Its founder John MacAlevey was full of praise for the website, saying, ‘I am pleased with the inquiries so far. The site could not have been launched at a better time. In the Leeds area we have seen a huge increase in the private rented sector and a rise in demand for properties that will house LHA tenants, due to the lack of mortgage funds and tough economic situation.’