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Government Cost Optimization Cuts Housing Costs, Will Private Landlords Start To Help The Homeless?

Updated on August 31, 2011

The UK Government is seeking cost optimization. One of their strategies is to cut housing costs.

The question is, will private landlords fill the gap and start helping the homeless?

It isn't just the UK that need to make savings.

This is a worldwide phenomenon.

We need to recoup from the devastating effects of the banking saga for which everyone has had to suffer.

None-the-less, it is no good harping on what happened, now is the time get out of debt for a brighter future.

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Social Housing Cuts - Private Landlords And Community Responsibility

A huge cut is being made and it is in the realms of social housing. Many Housing Associations, here in the UK, will be unable to build more homes. It is the homeless, it is feared, that will suffer. If there are going to be less social housing - perhaps now is the time for private landlords to take community responsibility.

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What Is It To Be Homeless?

Mendip District Council states the following on what it is to be homeless:

'You ARE homeless if you do not have a home that you can use. Your home must also be available to any other member of your family or household with whom you normally live.

You MAY be homeless if you have a home, but cannot live there for one of the following reasons:

  • You have been evicted illegally or unlawfully from it
    If you return to it you will have to face some form of violence or assault
  • It is not reasonable for you to stay in your present home
  • If you are in danger of losing your home, it is important that you contact us as soon as possible in order that our Housing Options Officers can talk to you about the options available in your particular circumstances. '

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Social Housing Has Copped A Cut

The Government advocates more community responsibility and involvement in today's Britain. It is now we need to pull together during this time of economic uncertainty. Of course, cuts need to be made - if you haven't got a penny, why spend a pound? No good ever comes from excessive spending and, sooner or later, you have to pay back the debt! Unfortunately, Social housing has copped a cut.

As a social landlord, myself, I was invited as a guest on BBC Somerset radio. I home homeless people from the council list and put up with the hassles and inconsistencies that come with dealing with the council and housing benefit.

The bureaucracy is a real killer for private landlords and it really is no wonder that most private landlords advertise their homes to let as 'No DSS'. You see, there isn't a lack of homes for social housing, just a lack of willing landlords! It was this that I talked about on the BBC.

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The Private Rental Market Expects Money Upfront

In the private rental market, it is expected that one months deposit and one months rent should be given in advanced. Government systems do not allow for this. They are slow in paying and offer a bond scheme payable at the end of the tenancy agreement, should damage occur to the property.

The property should be in the same condition from when it was first entered, less wear and tear. The deposit is the safeguard – if the deposit isn’t there, there is no safeguard. Yes, sure it is a guarantee, but when it comes to the council there is no guarantee - the computer always seems to say no! This is the general thought by landlords and it adds to their reluctance in taking people from the council list.

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Why Treat Homeless People Differently To The Rest Of Society?

Administration of benefits, the advanced rent, is slow – leaving tenants (and landlords) in desperate situations.

Advanced rents are given to landlords initially but after that, payments are not made in advanced – 1 week behind, 1 week ahead. Why should social landlords be treated differently to what is normal in the private sector? More importantly, why treat homeless people differently to the rest of society? They might not be working now, but with a roof over their heads, they have a chance to make good in their lives, so why put their homes at risk by this bureaucracy?

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Report Change Of Circumstances And Housing Benefit Stops

The system puts social tenants at risk. Whenever there is a change of circumstances, housing benefit stops until they have investigated. By the time they have completed these investigations, the tenant could well have been made homeless again. The system then puts tenants at risk.

Landlords who choose to help homeless people, because they have a social conscience like myself, are mortgaged up to the hilt. Try telling the mortgage company that your tenant has a change of circumstances and their benefits have been stopped, without penalty! Surprise, surprise! The banks don't have a social conscience - they are in it purely for the money. There is no compassion there!

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Homeless Case Study

I have just recently taken on a homeless lady from women's aid refuge with her child. The council were so slow in processing her application - damned administration! I took the bull by the horns and drove the lady some miles to the council offices and spent the next five hours meeting with the Officers so as she could get her advanced rent.

We were successful with a promise of funds - no money, but a promise. As a landlord, my head told me it was not a good idea to have someone move in without payment, but my heart won and I let her in (I was homeless, many years ago, now I do it for others). The advanced rent was deposited in my account, seven days later.

Four weeks later, she still has no money to live on and they have only just sorted out two weekly payments (one week in advance, one week back dated).

So, isn't it better if social landlords get direct payments?

If a direct payment is sent to landlords, should the tenant defraud the system, it isn’t the tenant that ends up in court, it is the landlord. Ultimately, the landlord has to pay back all rents paid to the council, although the Landlord didn’t commit the crime! Is that fair? Is it any wonder that private landlords refuse to let to people on DSS (Department of Social Security)?

Again, why treat social landlords differently to private landlords? I don't see private landlords being taken to court if their tenants evade their tax!

There seems to be a lot of discouragement to those landlords who have a social conscience. It is as if, like the tenants that they help, they are classed as second grade - as if they can't get anyone 'better' in their accommodation.

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Positively Descriminate Those In Most Need

I positively discriminate to those in most need. When I advertised my last property, I had 40 people apply and a lot of those were working with a good record. The property was newly decorated with new carpets and fittings because I believe that just because someone is on benefits, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a decent home to live in like everyone else.

I had the council officers come and view the property for a potential new tenant. They were trying to encourage me to place two adults and two children to over crowd a small two bed roomed cluster home. This is not to benefit the tenant, neither the landlord - it was to get value (the maximum personage, for the minimum of price) for the council.

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Administration In Housing Benefit Does Not Encourage Private Landlords Social Responsibility

The government is trying to encourage private landlords to commit to housing people from the council list. This is realistic and feasible, but there has to be a lot of changes in the administration in housing benefits and grants if this is to be successful. The way the system stands today, it does not encourage private landlords to share the love and social responsibility, does it?

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Yes, Private Landlords Will Start Letting To The Homeless If They Sort Out Their Administration.

People on the council list always flags trouble for the private landlord. Many won't entertain DSS. Why should they, when they can have the pick of the working sector who pay a deposit AND in advanced? However, if council administration changed - in line with the private sector - many more people will no longer be homeless.

These are the areas that need to change:

  • The system of advanced one-month rent and deposit should be in line with the same as the rest of our working society. The rents should be paid consistently and directly.
  • Landlords don’t like the new bond scheme that is offered to them.
  • Cut the bureaucracy and speed up housing benefit claims.
  • Pay housing benefit in advance per calendar month.
  • Do not stop housing benefit as soon as there is notification of a change of circumstances. Consistent payments will not lead to eviction. It is only when payments stop that people end up homeless again. , Do the investigations without stopping benefits – this encourages people to not fear reporting a change.
  • Pay Landlords directly without the fear of being sent to court by the council because the tenant has defrauded the system.
  • Give landlords the chance to interview a few potential tenants from the housing list, not ones the council ‘thinks’ the landlord should have.
  • Do not encourage overcrowding of a property; families soon outgrow a property if the property is too small to start with.

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Will Private Landlords Start Helping The Homeless?

Will private landlords start helping the homeless now that the UK Government's cost optimization has been set?  Well, the answer is yes but only with a proviso.  There needs to be an easier system that is in line with conventional private lettings, followed through with a few guarantees to landlords like upfront deposits and advanced rents.  We want ease of payments made directly, without interuption, and should there be a change to the tenant's circumstances, an investigation should not stop payments.  If this doesn't happen, there will be a lot more people homeless and helpless.  Is this really what we want?  It will be interesting to see if cuts to housing costs will be supplemented by easing strategies to our benefits system.

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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      I have a social conscience, HappyBoomer, so put up with the hassle with the system. However, Private Landlords who just want to let their homes are less likely to let to homeless - why should they bother when their are plenty of 'working' people who have money upfront?

      The system needs to change if council list tenants are to be homed by Private sector Landlords.

      Thanks for reading and adding to the this article :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Hi Shazwellyn,

      I live in America and there a a lot of homeless here, and also a lot of rules for Section 8 (government rental assistance program.)

      You did a good job explaining the specific problems in your country's system and the pressure on the landlords who have to make mortgage payments.

      I really don't know how you're able to keep doing it.

      God bless you for still trying.

    • aware profile image


      8 years ago from West Palm Beach Florida.

      its a sword for sure

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Aware - this is true. It doesn't seem right, somehow, that letting agencies are leaving homes empty just because they dont want DSS. But, then again, why would private landlords want hasstle with systems like Housing Benefit which always seem like hard work and unreliable?

      It is a double edged sword, don't you think?

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Hmrjmr1 - Yes, things have changed a great deal. There is no homes for life anymore - rather that will be coming soon. Everything is temporary these days and it seems that social change is being adopted in line with most European countries. This is alright, as long as our most vulnerable is ok, schemes need to be put in place.

      Thank you my friend :)

    • aware profile image


      8 years ago from West Palm Beach Florida.

      Family's left homeless and hopeless.

      while houses sit empty by the droves

      makes me sad

      let them eat cake

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image


      8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Shaz - Some great info here. While I'm an American I have many ties to the UK via my late wife's family. Much has seemed to change already since I was last familiar with the council house procedures. Hope someone listens to you and they sort it out to the good lass. God Bless you for what you are doing! XX (Two Big Hugs)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Aiden - I think that private landlords could and would step in if it wasnt for the problems with housing benefit. If the Government sorted out the benefit system, as outlined here, then it will encourage Private Landlords to step in.

      Fingers crossed for that change!

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      You are correct, the welfare benefit system in the UK leaves a lot to be desired, the administration of all benefits including housing benefit is an absolute nightmare; especially for social tenants and landlords.

      I think the system thinks all social landlords are large housing associations with deep pockets, we know this is not the case.

      As you will be aware private tenants are part of a scheme called local housing allowance; which in theory put's the tenant in control by way of paying the tenant the rent rather than the landlord, there are safeguards in place for vulnerable tenants which means that if they haven't forwarded to rent for 8 weeks then direct payments can be made to the landlord. In practice there are many tenants who simply spend the rent payments and the benefit administrators are reluctant to make direct payments to landlords, ultimately tenant get's evicted and many buy to let landlords have the property repossessed.

      Will the recent changes to housing benefit rules create more homelessness, absolutely yes!

      Will private landlords step in and help out, probably not!

      Will the most vulnerable people in society suffer (including small social landlords) yes without question!


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