Private rent moguls to evict 100s of housing benefit claimants
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
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A pair of property tycoons have sent eviction letters to over 200 of their tenants claiming housing benefit - and have said they'd rather have eastern Europeans in their homes than people on welfare.
Fergus Wilson, who with wife Judith runs a 1,000+ property empire in Kent, has claimed that the move is a purely financial decision, based on benefit claimants' ability to pay.
And Mr Wilson has advised those on housing benefits to find a job if they wish to get a house.
The landlord said: "When it comes to money, over half of people on benefits were defaulting on their rent, and when it comes to people who are working, we've not had one single person default on one single penny.
"Rents are going up in line with the price of houses, and housing benefit levels are dropping at the same time.
"Tenants from eastern Europe, places like Poland, have been here a number of years now and have built up a good enough credit rating to rent privately."
The couple, both former maths teachers, have steadily built up a property portfolio worth around £225 million since starting out in the early '90s.
Housing charity Shelter has criticised the Wilsons' move. The charity's Roger Harding said: “It is very worrying. If this policy continues over the long term, we will see blackspots in the country where people on housing benefit simply cannot find anywhere reasonable.
“There’ll be areas where, if you lose your job or become ill, and you try and fall back on housing benefit, it won’t be high enough for you to find somewhere."
And the chief executive of online lettings company Rentify questioned the financial wisdom of the move. George Spencer said: "We urge all landlords to consider the implications of such blanket bans. Not only could they significantly limit your chances of finding new tenants, they could also lead to public outcry, a backlash against landlords and further regulation.
"Under the current housing benefit system, the amount a tenant can receive is based on the cheapest 30% of properties in the area. This means that 1/3 of homes in your area should be affordable to those on benefits. If your property is in that bracket you should have a large market of benefits tenants available to you. Of course, this becomes more cloudy under universal credit where the tenant receives one lump sum for all of their benefits and must budget accordingly. The big worry is that landlords (generally) will not receive rent directly from the council, creating more uncertainty. But there are still many things landlords can do before bringing in a ban on benefits tenants. And each case must be judged on its individual merits."