Those Most in Need Being Priced Out of the Rental Market


The housing market is never far from the financial pages for one reason or another. From some quarters, it is hailed as the saviour of the UK economy, as properties continue to rise and wealthy investors find traditional bricks and mortar the best way to make their money grow. Some are even cashing in their pension pots to enter the buy to let market and watch the money come rolling in.

All this is great for those whose biggest concern is what to do with all the money thy have tucked away in order to make it grow faster. For those on the other side of the equation, however, it is a different matter. For most people, the decision to rent rather than buy is one that is reached through necessity rather than choice. If you do not have the capital for a deposit, or the regular income and credit status for a mortgage, then rental accommodation becomes the only available option.

Naturally enough, therefore, a large proportion of those who are struggling to make ends meet through low paying jobs and / or state benefits are reliant on the rental market for a roof over their heads. How shocking, then, that according to a recent article in The Guardian, an incredible 100 tenants per day are being evicted because they simply cannot afford to pay the rent.

Priced out of the market

The problem was brought into crystal clear focus by a study by the Simon Communities, a charitable organisation that works with the homeless and those facing eviction. Originating in London, the organisation now has representation across the UK and Ireland.

The study found that less than ten percent of the properties available on the rental market were within the reach of those reliant of state benefits. They examined 630 properties that were being marketed on a given day in March, and found that average rental prices had increased by more than 13 percent over the previous 12 months. They also found that there had been a 45 percent fall in the number of properties available to rent compared with two years earlier.

The increase in rent is an inevitable consequence of rising property prices, which mean that even those on a modest salary are unable to get on the property ladder. In combination with the reduced number of properties on the market, a simple equation of supply and demand comes in to play. The result? While landlords are laughing all the way to the bank, those in the greatest need are facing an ever-widening gap between benefit payments and rental prices.

While gaps exist in markets across the UK, the biggest gulfs are within the nation’s cities. In London, some residents face a shortfall of over £1,000 per month between their benefits and the rent payable, while over in Dublin, the study found that of the 202 properties available for rent, only a paltry three were within the financial reach of those claiming rent supplement or housing assistance.

More private landlords

The increased popularity of investment properties and the buy to let sector means that the majority of those facing eviction are the tenants of private landlords rather than social housing organisations. Again, this is simply down to market forces as opposed to choice. When asked, most of those reliant on government benefits stated that they would prefer to be in social housing, but struggle to meet the increasingly stringent eligibility criteria.

In 2014, the number of tenants evicted by private landlords overtook those forced out by social landlords for the first time, and in the years since, the gap has steadily grown.

As if this was not difficult enough, the rise of private landlords has also led to an increase in the deposits demanded, with many seeking a down payment equivalent to two months’ rent or more.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

As if the rising price of rent was not causing sufficient problems, many are facing a double-whammy of reduced income as a result of the universal credit debacle. Even without this, housing benefit has been falling behind the meteoric rise in rental prices for the past seven years, and the current pay freeze means things will only get worse.

This has left thousands in what can only be described as an impossible position. The Guardian article we mentioned earlier has a whole host of real world examples – everyday people forced to decide whether to pay the rent, the electricity bill or buy some shopping.

Is it any wonder that some end up trying to “play the system” when it comes to their benefit claim? Of course it is not right, but neither is the fact that families are forced into such an impossible situation, usually through no fault of their own.

Help is available

The government has made a commitment to invest more heavily in affordable housing and address the current imbalance. While that is well and good, it does not help those facing difficulties right now.

At Hylton-Potts, we have helped thousands facing eviction and allegations of benefit fraud. If you are one of the growing number of people forced into a desperate situation, it is important to take a clear-headed approach and get some professional assistance as quickly as possible.

If you are facing homelessness, try not to panic. There is help out there if you know where to look, and Shelter will ensure you and your family have somewhere safe to go while you get everything sorted out.

It is important to remember that while it is a frightening experience, you are not alone. The most important thing is to make the best use of the support that is available. The team here at Hylton-Potts is here to help. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or get in touch via email at law@hylton-potts.com.

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