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Social Security payment system "antiquated", makes claimants "a gamble" for landlords

Social Security payment system

Thursday 22 April 2021

Social Security payment system "antiquated", makes claimants "a gamble" for landlords


People who claim from Social Security are hitting roadblocks when trying to rent from private landlords in the island, according to professionals in the rental market.

Express spoke to an estate agent about how the current system for social security payments has become “antiquated” and is stopping some people on States' benefits from getting property in the private sector.

“There are two main issues that landlords face when deciding whether to take on a tenant on benefits,” said Jon Sheppard from Sheppards Estate Agents.

“Ever since the States of Guernsey took the stance [of not paying landlords directly] a lot of landlords don’t have that guarantee - this limits landlords accepting social security tenants,” he said.

 Deputy Peter Roffey

Pictured: The President of the Committee for Employment and Social Security, Deputy Peter Roffey, recently commented on the stereotypes people have about those on benefits. 

Mr Sheppard said landlords are being asked to take a gamble, and essentially “put the cart before the horse.”  Additionally, Social Security will not assist with paying deposits or advance rent before the tenant is actually in the property.

“The States, under the current scheme, will not pay any money out until the tenant moves in,” said Mr Sheppard. “So, you’re asking the landlord to wait.”

Jeff Guilbert of the Guernsey Landlords Association repeated these concerns and agreed the system doesn’t help people on benefits into rental accommodation. 

“You’re asking landlords to gamble on taking on a tenant without paying a deposit or month’s rent in advance,” he said.

“We would more likely take someone if they paid us directly. The States of Guernsey pay the Guernsey Housing Association and old people’s homes direct, why don’t they do the same with us?”

 Deposit.png

Pictured: Some people receive support with deposits from third sector organisations.

The States of Guernsey has no intention of taking away benefit claimants’ responsibility for their own money management, and have no intention of developing a deposit loan scheme.

“Our general policy is not to fund deposits or rent in advance,” said Director of Operations for Social Security, Inclusion and Education, Ed Ashton.

“The development of some form of deposit loan scheme would require careful consideration and is not currently one of the Committee’s policy priorities,” he said.

At the moment all income support is assessed on a weekly basis to allow for quick adjustments and fluctuating claimant situations.

“Switching the assessment period to enable benefit towards rent to be payable in advance by up to a month for example would also need careful consideration,” said Mr Ashton.

“When people make claims for benefit we don’t seek to take away their responsibility, or ability, to manage their own financial affairs."

GHA_housing_story.png

Pictured: GHA Chief Executive Steve Williams spoke in-depth to Express recently about the association's ever-increasing waiting list - which is combined with waiting lists for States housing - and the island's affordable housing crisis. 

There are some scenarios where the States of Guernsey pay direct to landlords, but this is rare and in exceptional circumstances.

“In some instances, we do agree to pay rent direct, but this is usually by exception taking into account the particular circumstances of each case,” said Mr Ashton. 

Landlords are being asked to call 732480 if they have any concerns with tenants on income support who are late with payments or unable to pay rent.

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