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St Peter’s Grove is popular with buy-to-let landlords (file pic)

Tenants on benefits struggle to find homes in the private sector

Fewer landlords are letting their properties to people on Universal Credit and other benefits, according to the Canterbury Housing Advice Centre.

Over the last year, the charity helped 1,265 households regarding 1,844 calls for assistance — with the majority of these people being “vulnerably housed in insecure accommodation”.

The difficulties in finding rented accommodation and the precariousness of private sector tenants are two of the themes that underlie the newly-released annual report.

The review, covering the year to 31 March, shows that nearly a quarter (24%) of Canterbury Housing Advice Centre (CHAC) clients are 45 or over, a third (32%) are unemployed, a quarter (25%) are unemployed and 37% are disabled.

Commenting on the way the local market is changing for renters, the CHAC trustees say: “It is increasingly difficult to find private rented accommodation if you are receiving any form of benefits.

“In the past landlords and estate agents were sceptical of certain benefits. Increasingly landlords and estate agents apply a simplified rule against any benefits claimants, making it very difficult for many to rent privately.”

In the past, uncertain housing has been seen as a problem for the younger sectors of society who might be changing job or moving location before settling down.

But with pensioners accounting for 6% of CHAC clients, and those in the 45-pension age category accounting  for 18 per cent, the charity suggests, through its statistics, that older age groups are now also significantly at risk of losing their homes.

The report includes a recent case study involving a 74-year old man whose Canterbury landlord decided to sell up after 15 years.

The pensioner was issued with a possession notice. CHAC managed to negotiate more time with the landlord, secured Housing Benefit for the man and helped him be re-housed in a one-bedroom flat in a sheltered housing association flat.

Commenting on the case, CHAC said: “This case illustrates a real problem with assured shorthold tenancies –the tenant’s security is at the whim of the landlord notwithstanding paying rent, age, or any other vulnerabilities.”

CHAC helped people stay on in their homes in 30% of cases involving threatened homelessness.

For the other clients, the advisers helped them move elsewhere. Prevention of housing problems also saves money for the Council and taxpayers. CHAC estimates it has saved £318,756 in 2017/18 for the taxpayer — or £873 a day.

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