I'd like to give you one reason why landlords don't like tenants on Housing Benefit.
* * *
My husband recently took two part time jobs. Together they add up to five-and-a-half hours work a week. Between them, they bring in a wage of just over forty pounds.
This is not enough to take us above the income threshold for receiving Housing Benefit. Nor does it affect any other benefits we receive. None the less, we are obliged to inform the people administering it of any change in our circumstances. And this counts as a change.
We phone and tell them about the five-and-a-half hours and the just-over-forty pounds. (About forty-three I think but he hasn't been paid yet for both so I can't be exact.)
Our Housing Benefit, which is paid directly to our landlord is stopped. Instantly stopped.
"What about," I suggest to the woman on the phone (who is very nice and polite and understands the situation - none of which can be guaranteed when you phone about benefits) "you continue paying the same amount less the forty pounds? Forty-five even? - till it's sorted?"
No. It all has to be stopped - and immediately. We haven't even got the forms to fill in yet.
"We don't have enough money to pay the whole rent - that's why we receive the benefit."
Nothing will shift the situation. Because my husband will be earning forty, possibly forty-three pounds a week, our rent is stopped.
Now. We are lucky. Really lucky. Our landlord is a Housing Association. They understand these things. They are big enough that their own finances won't be rocked by our non-payment for a few weeks. They might, they say, send us a letter to complain. It's standard. We mustn't worry. (We've hit this issue before. We were told if we had to go to court, the magistrate would throw out the case because it's clear we are waiting for the benefit to be paid - but I don't want to go to court. I don't even like the thought of it. It makes me go all shivery.)
We wait a few weeks.
We get a letter.
Our Housing Benefit will be paid just as before.
The arrears will be paid too.
We can keep the forty/forty three pounds each week. It won't affect anything.
What if we had had a private landlord? What if that landlord relied on our rent to cover his or her own expenses?
Would our landlord have said, 'Oh, that's ok, I don't mind you not paying rent till this gets sorted out?'.
Would an ordinary landlord understand the benefit system enough to trust the rent would, in the end, be paid?
Would they have said 'This is what happens when you rent property to people on Housing Benefit! You can't trust those people to pay their rent!'
So . . . would my husband have taken up this work?
Because he has to be around me a lot in case I have a fit, these few hours he is away can be stressful. (For me.) (They are a break, a change in scene for him!) If I am unwell, he sets me up with a flask of tea so I don't have to use the kettle. If I'm ok - I'm ok. If I'm not, I sit in bed till he comes back. But that forty / forty-three pounds will mean (hopefully) that we won't need to claim Income Support. We are saving the government money. It should be pleased.
What if, instead of watching over me (and our children for that matter) he was unemployed and looking for work? It's said that, if you take a part time job you can build up your CV . . . after a while it may turn into full time work . . . it shows you are serious about employment . . . that you are 'willing' . . .
But you wouldn't be able to take a part time job, would you? Because if you took the job you wouldn't, for several weeks, be able to pay your rent. You'd have to wait for your money. You don't get paid the first day you turn up for work.
The same would apply to a full-time job.
No wonder landlords don't like tenants on Housing Benefit.
No wonder people on Housing Benefit are reluctant to look for work.
P,S. Housing Benefit is means tested and given when combined family income is below the threshold considered necessary for renting somewhere appropriate to live - as long as savings are below £16,000. It can be claimed by people on low wages as well as others.