New feudal landbarons evict 100s of housing benefit tenants

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon Jan 6 12:24:15 GMT 2014

Buy-to-let property supremo shuts door on housing benefit tenants
One of Britain's best-known landlords, who owns 
nearly 1,000 homes, has sent out 200 eviction notices
Emma Lunn  The Guardian, Saturday 4 January 2014 - Jump to comments (5499)

One of Britain's best-known landlords has issued 
eviction notices to every tenant who is on 
welfare, and told letting agents that he will not 
accept any more applicants who need housing benefit.
Fergus Wilson, who with his wife Judith owns 
nearly 1,000 properties around the Ashford area 
of Kent, has sent the eviction notices to 200 
tenants, saying he prefers eastern European 
migrants who default much less frequently than 
single mums on welfare. He says the move is 
purely an economic decision and points out that 
private landlords are running a business.
"Rents have gone north, and benefit levels 
south," he said. "The gap is such that I have 
taken the decision to withdraw from taking 
tenants on housing benefit. From what I can 
gather just about all other landlords have done 
the same. Our situation is that not one of our 
working tenants is in arrears – all those in arrears are on housing benefit."
A key factor for Wilson and other landlords is 
that it is impossible to obtain rent guarantee 
insurance for a tenant on housing benefit. This 
type of insurance is sold to landlords and is 
designed to cover the rent if the tenant stops paying for any reason.
Another issue Wilson raises is the number of 
tenancy applications landlords receive for each property.
"Tenants on benefits are competing with eastern 
Europeans who came to the UK in 2005 and have 
built up a good enough credit record to rent 
privately. We've found them to be a good category 
of tenant who don't default on the rent. With 
tenants on benefits the number of defaulters 
outnumbers the ones who pay on time," he said.
"Single mothers on benefits have been displaced 
to the bottom of the pile; sympathy for this 
group is disappearing. There aren't enough places for people to live."
Dan Wilson Craw, a spokesman for campaign group 
Priced Out, says he is dismayed to hear Wilson's 
announcement: "Evicting tenants because you're 
suddenly upset about new government policies is 
unbelievably heartless, and could lead to more 
people deciding not to claim benefit for fear of 
losing their home, and sinking further into 
poverty," he said, "This is just one symptom of a 
wider housing market that is simply not working 
in the consumer's interests. The instability and 
poor conditions that private tenants have to deal 
with would not be tolerated in any other market."
Wilson's decision comes after figures from the 
National Landlords' Association published in 
December, which showed that the number of private 
landlords letting to people on benefits has halved to just one in five.
Problems for tenants on benefits seem likely to 
get worse when universal credit is introduced. 
Under the scheme, six means-tested benefits, 
including housing benefit, will be combined into 
one monthly payment. Tenants on benefits will 
need to budget and pay the rent to their landlord themselves.
Universal credit started to be introduced in 
April 2013 and it is predicted that all claimants 
will be moved to the scheme by 2017.
The Wilsons shot to prominence in 2006 when it 
was revealed that they had built up Britain's 
biggest buy-to-let empire, sometimes snapping up 
a property every day in the early part of the decade.
Wilson is not the first large-scale landlord to 
raise concerns about low-income tenants. Last 
month Kevin Green, a landlord with more than 700 
properties in Wales, said he may stop letting to people on welfare.
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