Some of my correspondence with the local council showing how impossible it is obtaining privately rented accommodation when you have to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops created by estate agents and the local Council and the ludicrously rotten benefits system.
28th September 2011 – 1500 hrs
Dear Social Services,
Thank you for your email sent at 1036 hrs this morning in which you tell me you can pay the estate agent fees and first month’s rent and deposit and act as guarantor.
The estate agent is ……
The telephone number is … and the person dealing with this is….. Her email is ……
The property is at …..
I have just spoken to the agent a moment ago and informed her of the fact you will be organising the financing of this rental.
The second I mentioned that this was being paid for by you she immediately said the landlord ‘would have to know’ and it was unlikely he would accept me as a tenant because the funding would not be coming directly from me. She ignored my explanation that you would be acting as guarantor as though this would be meaningless when in fact it would be a legal guarantee the rent would be paid.
She focussed on the fact the only arrangement that would be workable would be six months rent in advance. She said that without that it would not be possible to proceed.
You couldn’t get a clearer indication that this whole poisonous difficulty of benefit claimants and other less ‘credit worthy’ individuals being unable to rent accommodation has been brought into being by the way estate agents choose to function.
She was immediately ‘obstructive’ in our conversation and quite determined to strip out of it any sensible and positive discussion and she made it clear to me her thinking was to disregard me as a prospective tenant and advise the landlord accordingly, quite regardless of the security of the rent being paid and guaranteed.
Estate agents actively encourage landlords to ‘fear’ benefit claimants etc, and they also insist on using rapacious ‘referencing’ agencies that charge extortionate fees to produce referencing reports which are based on highly dubious financial credit referencing agencies like Experian and barely worth the paper they are written on and certainly are no real indication of likely tenant reliability.
The simple reason for this is that it benefits the estate agents. Even an individual with a blameless record finds the system completely obnoxious and basically just a rip off as I have found when I have spoken to many other tenants affected by this.
I also need to let you know that the fierce ‘standardisation’ of rental levels set by estate agents means that essentially all two bedroomed properties are virtually the same rental levels starting at £795. I have accepted the fact that I will have to fund the shortfall between the housing benefit level set by the government and what I actually have to pay.
I know I am able to do this because I am currently paying £117 monthly for storage of household goods and also setting aside £100 monthly as a temporary ISA savings despite a a huge shortfall in the income I should be receiving under the benefits system. In addition to this I am not being paid any child tax credits at all which would amount to about £40 per week (£160 monthly) , and there are certain deductions also taken from my pension credit which are incorrect and should not only stop when the issue is sorted out, but substantial sums should, presumably, be legally refundable.
A simple understanding of what I am talking about is that you might say I am being well and truly ‘ripped off’ by not being correctly treated by the benefits system which can behave very erratically. I have not previously been in a position to do anything about sorting all this out until now.
The other relevant facts concerning the property I am trying to rent are that the rent is £850 per month and if I was paying hard cash out of my own pocket with six months up front I know it would come down to £800 per month. With this in mind it might be worth your while telling the agent the rent will be only £800 per month in return for paying the rent six months in advance, if you so choose.
The deposit is also stated as being six weeks worth of the rental figure instead of the one month that used to be the norm. All the other estate agents I have spoken to have also upped the deposit levels to six weeks too.
The bottom line about all this is that the estate agents are in control and they have both you and all prospective tenants over a barrel. It is the estate agents who also influence and ultimately control the landlords too into believing the correct way to go about renting their property is in the manner the estate agents dictate.
Again, all this means that, as the primary objective is for my son and me to get into acceptable accommodation, the speediest and most cost effective way of doing this is to simply work within this wickedly rapacious estate agents lettings system and be forced to pay the six months rent in advance.
This is because the only way of getting around the joke of ‘referencing’ which, if it finds even the slightest glitch in a credit record etc or lack of employment even if pensions or benefits are being paid, will result in outright rejection of a tenant.
By paying the whole of the six months length of the rental contract in advance it cuts the legs completely off the referencing issue as the landlord’s receipt of rental payments can no longer exist as a ‘risk’. It does also offer both the logic and bargaining tool for reducing the rent down to at least £800 per month on the basis that the landlord is effectively receiving more rent than the agreed figure if it is all paid six months in advance. A landlord would find it difficult to refuse reducing the rent in this manner if it was paid in advance.
I had to struggle somewhat with the estate agent and be very persistent that this deal could still go ahead as really, she seemed to be automatically just dismissing me out of hand because I didn’t ‘tick all the standard boxes’ the estate agents like. These people are very blinkered and have completely one track minds as they are really just jumped up and mobile versions of call centre robots – with the same total lack of individual initiative.
It is clear from all this that there is no immediate way out of the vice like grip the estate agents hold over the entire market, making it almost impossible for anyone on benefits to be accepted for any normal rented property without paying the rent up front. There is effectively no possibility of a benefits claimant on housing benefit commencing any brand new rental. Which only throws any benefit claimant straight back into social housing as the only possible means of finding any accommodation at all.
Every other conversation I have had with estate agents has arrived at this same conclusion that without paying the rent up front, it will be impossible to enter into any rental agreement.
The estate agent asked me to request that you speak to her or email her about this to see if any progress might be made and she put unreasonable pressure on all this by telling me she will be immediately proceeding with other tenants meanwhile.
A simple display of the venality of these predatory people.