Posts Tagged ‘Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 2000’

Just one of the many properties I have tried to rent over the last few years.

Just one of the many properties I have tried to rent over the last few years.

After seeing an article on MSN News about a Disabled Olympic Gold Medalist being refused a home with a downstairs toilet I felt compelled to write about my experience of trying to find a suitable home for myself since becoming disabled.

This ‘National Hero’ (so titled by his mother, I have my own definition of a hero and it doesn’t include sports stars, no matter how much I admire them) made headlines in both The London Evening Standard and MSN News when in reality there are thousand more disabled people being denied suitable accommodation either by their Local Councils or Private Landlords with no mention in the media whatsoever.

For my own part I have been trying to find a ground floor one bedroom property for the last three years with no luck. At present I live in one room of a two bedroom terraced house because I struggle to use the stairs to get to the toilet myself. I sleep on a futon in the living room and have to carefully monitor my intake of fluids so I don’t have to crawl upstairs on my hands and knees too often during the day. There is nothing particularly wrong with this house, but it is totally unsuitable to my needs. I cannot get Mobility help for a scooter or wheelchair unless I am on High Rate DLA so spend seven days a week in this one room, unless I have a doctors appointment, then it is taxis there and back. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I am lucky in the sense that I can just about afford my rent, although I have to go without heating which with winter rapidly approaching, is not a prospect I am looking forward to and also my food shopping bill could do with being a little bit higher. There are however many families out there that are unable to do even that due to the enforced Bedroom Tax and are unable to downsize for the very same reasons as I am about to explain. Apart from the obvious, that there aren’t enough smaller social housing properties to go round attempting to go it alone and get into the Private Sector is not an option either. I contacted Erewash Council and was told by them that despite my disabilities to be eligible for the Priority Housing List I have to be in receipt of High Rate DLA (Disability Living Allowance).  I am currently on Low Rate Mobility only and if I was to put in a change of circumstances to the DWP of my deteriorating condition I would be ‘invited’ to apply for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and my DLA would be withdrawn. As you will know from my other posts I have already jumped through so many hoops just to try and get my disability recognized that at the moment I just do not have the fight in me for another round. I have seen the descriptors for PIP and the bar has been lifted so high that those who are on low rate mobility at present stand a very good chance of losing out altogether so you can see why I am loathe to put myself through that at the moment. With no help coming from my local council I have tried to find a private rental, again with no luck. I have come across discrimination from every landlord I have applied to so far because I am living on benefits. Even if by chance I found a landlord that would consider my application, as soon as I mention the Council Bond Scheme the property became immediately unavailable to me. It has always been difficult to find housing on benefits but since the austerity cuts it has become nigh on impossible. The Governments imposed Bedroom Tax has left thousands of families with disabled members needing to downsize rather than face eviction but for most of these families actually finding somewhere to downsize to is impossible.

As I stated, much of this has come about since the Governments Benefit Clamp Down. In This Is Money it is documented that the number of landlords prepared to rent to tenants on benefits has fallen by 20%

“The National Landlords Association reported that there has been 20 per cent fall in the proportion of its member landlords who let to tenants on local housing allowance between the first and second quarters of this year. The share of landlords willing to let to those who rely on benefits to pay their rent dropped from 34 per cent to 27 per cent”

Read more:

So why the discrimination and yes I do believe that it is. The Disability Law Service states that the legal definition of discrimination is:

A person is treated less favourably than someone else and that the treatment is for a reason relating to the person’s protected characteristic (e.g. disability)Definition of a Disabled Person – Section 6(1) of the Equality Act states:

“A person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Types of Disability Discrimination:        

         Direct Disability Discrimination
Discrimination arising in consequence of a person’s disability
Indirect Disability Discrimination
Failure to make reasonable adjustments

If you are disabled or have had a disability, the Equality Act makes it unlawful for you to be discriminated against in:Employment
Access to goods, facilities and services
The Management, buying or renting of land or property

You will note that buying or renting of property or land is included in that description. It is discriminatory to disregard all potential tenants because they are on benefits and should be against the law. To advertise a property as being unavailable to benefit claimants is akin to being discriminatory against other minorities such as someone from the LGTB community or because they are coloured. So why do landlords deny disabled claimants housing?

There are a number of reasons, and the main one being the bad name given to all those on benefits by the media and this government. The labels “Scroungers” Benefit Cheats”  “Frauds” etc that are bandied about by newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Express tar all claimants with the same brush when in fact we know it is only a tiny percent that are fraudulent or work-shy and however wrongly, many landlords feel that they will spend more time chasing up rent payments than they will anything else. There is also the misconception that tenants on benefits will not look after the property properly and so leave the landlord with a huge refurbishment bill at the end of their tenancy. Which brings us to Council Bonds, and why landlords steer clear of them like the plague. They do not trust the scheme because the councils very rarely pay out the full amount. They insist on an inspection of the property at the end of the tenancy and what the landlord may see as unacceptable damage the council would see as general wear and tear. We have to remember here that many councils won’t even redecorate before re-leasing a property so their standards are different. The councils have made very few full payouts and therefore the scheme is not trusted to be in the landlords best interest.

Insurance is another huge problem landlords face. Many Insurers charge exorbitant premiums and some refuse insurance altogether. Due to the welfare cap there are doubts that the tenant will be able to keep up with the payments and of course this has a knock on effect. The majority of tenants have to pay a percentage towards their rent out of their allowance, one huge bill, or a missed payment and they are soon in arrears.  In the old system rent was typically paid directly into the landlords bank account however now that it is paid to the tenant instead there is a fear of increasing rent arrears. Landlords who have bought to rent feel that their mortgages are also at risk. There is also the fact that some mortgage terms and conditions stipulate that the house is not leased to benefit recipients which I find most appalling of all. There is also the point that LHA is paid in arrears and every four weeks. All the rental properties I have lived in except one the rent was paid monthly and in advance, plus of course there is the red tape of applying for Housing Benefit in the first place, the endless forms to fill in and the delay in processing can sometimes take up to two months to sort out.

These re just a few of the reasons it is so difficult to find a lease and it would seem the odds are stacked against anyone in receipt of benefits not just the disabled, but think how all this impacts on the health of an already sick person. The stress of trying to find a property for me has been enormous and has brought me to tears on more than one occasion and the pain I am in most days often seems unbearable. How are we supposed to downsize, which I am also trying to do, if the council won’t help and private landlords won’t touch even consider it? I agree that landlords should have a say on who to let their properties to but to discriminate against someone who has no option but to be on benefits because of their health is not only immoral, it should be illegal. There are many genuinely decent disabled people out there struggling to find letting agents or landlords due to unfair discrimination and they should be given a fair chance at finding suitable housing for their needs. Landlords need to look at each case individually rather than just assuming everyone on benefits is a poor investment. The cost of denying people like myself housing causes enormous physical and emotional strain and has to be another factor in the dramatic increase in suicides as people struggle to find themselves some where affordable to live and how many of those suicides have been people in a similar situation to myself, unable to find help either from the councils or the private sector.