Today in politics: Benefits, flooding and electrical safety

5 Mar 2020 01:41 PM

Today in politics: Benefits, flooding and electrical safety.

The property ombudsman has today warned agents must not discriminate against benefit tenants. We look at what she has to say, along with new figures on the number of elderly renters living in poverty and benefit overpayments. We also look at what the government has to say on support for tenants in flood risk areas. 

Property ombudsman warns agents must not discriminate

Following the legal victories of two tenants who have both won out-of-court settlements against “No DSS” letting agents, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has issued a reminder to its member agents of their obligations not to discriminate. 

TPO has also confirmed it will consider obtaining Assured Advice and strengthening its Codes of Practice in the next update to clearly prohibit ‘No DSS’ clauses in rental advertisements.

Amanda Staples and Emma Loffler both won out-of-court settlements against “No DSS” letting agents on the grounds of indirect discrimination. 

Under clause 1e and 1f of The Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice for Residential Letting Agents, agents are reminded that they must:

Economic circumstances include tenants who are in receipt of benefits. Setting out TPO’s stance on the issue, Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said:

“Whilst rental properties are investments for landlords, they are homes for tenants. 

“To be excluded from a significant portion of the homes available simply because you are in receipt of Housing Benefits cannot be considered as treating consumers equally. 

“Tenants’ perceptions that they have been unfairly discriminated against underpin the significant number of the complaints received.  

“TPO agrees that adverts which discriminate against would-be tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit should end.  Making sure no one is excluded from applying for the home of their choice will go some way to reducing these complaints.”

She said that where mortgage lenders / insurance providers specifically exclude tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit agents should evidence that and give an explanation to prospective tenants individually.

The RLA has reminded landlords they should not impose blanket bans – but said the situation remains a complex one – and that more is needed to address issues of affordability in the sector. The association attended high level talks on the issue at Downing Street last year.

18% of additional pensioners living in poverty are in PRS, says new report

The Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England have today published a report suggesting that more than two million over-55s are living in a home that endangers their health or wellbeing. It says:

Housing benefit of £329 million overpaid in six months 

The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest data on the amount of Housing Benefit overpaid to claimants, the overpayments recovered and amounts written off. 

It reports that during Quarters 1 and 2 of 2019/20:

Government pressed on help for tenants in flood risk areas

Dame Diana Johnson MP (Labour, Kingston upon Hull North) has received a response to her written question asking what steps the government is taking to protect people living in rented accommodation in flood-risk areas who cannot afford flood insurance premiums.

The Minister for floods, Rebecca Pow MP, responded: 

“Flood Re, launched in 2016, is a joint initiative between government and industry designed to improve the availability and affordability of flood insurance for households at high risk of flooding. Flood Re allows insurance companies to pass on the flood risk element of household insurance policies to them for a below market-rate set premium.

“For renters, insurers can ask Flood Re to cover the flood risk part of a contents insurance policy, as long as the property meets certain criteria, including: being used for private; residential purposes; having a domestic Council Tax band A to H; being a single residential unit or building comprising two or three units; being insured on an individual basis; and being built before 01/01/2009.”

The Government’s Flood Re scheme was set up to help homeowners whose properties were at risk of flooding – but excludes the PRS as buy-to-let homes are considered a commercial undertaking.

You can read more on the issue here.

Lords to consider electrical safety and CMP regulations

The House of Lords is due to consider and agree the following regulations on 16th March: