A late flurry of activity just before Christmas meant that the 2012 ended well for the Private Rented Sector access scheme. It was particularly gratifying to move one family, a single mother who had fled domestic violence with her two very young children and had been living in one room in emergency accommodation in Harrow for the last 12 months. I had gone there back in September to assess her and it was an utterly soulless and depressing place, although I was assured by her Social worker who had referred the family to us that she had “seen a lot worse”. The family moved into a nice two bedroom flat in Stoke Newington on Christmas Eve and the last time I spoke to them they were settling in well, with a benign landlord who had gone out of his way to make them comfortable.
Unfortunately the Christmas spirit evaporated with the season and the situation for the last few weeks has been as bleak and depressing as the weather. The early part of the year is traditionally a slow time in the rental market, but as we get towards the end of February there should be a definite increase in supply, but so far this has failed to materialise. Alarmingly the feedback I have been getting is that Landlords who were previously happy to rent to Housing Benefit claimants are now extremely reluctant. This is because universal credit vastly increases the risk of tenants falling into arrears (see Romin’s last blog post for more details) and also the proposed abolition of crisis loans, which almost every Housing Benefit claimant uses to pay rent in advance, and without which no landlord will offer a tenancy. Continue reading