Foxtons declare war on the homeless

The London Evening Standard has a story which is simultaneously unsurprising yet startling in its blatancy.

A landlord had entered an agreement to let the property through CityWest Homes – Westminster Council’s housing entity. This was the private letting arm of CityWest. As I have been informed, in this instance the proposed CityWest tenant would not have been a housing benefit/LHA claimant, this is a wing of CityWest which effectively acts as a private letting agent, but with ‘higher standards’.

But, CityWest also try to seek out deals with private landlords to find accommodation for the homeless and threatened with homelessness, at a rent affordable within HB/LHA rates. This is clearly what Foxtons have in mind in what follows.

Somehow – how is not clear – Foxtons found out about this CityWest deal. Their Hampstead Lettings Manager James Grunshaw emailed the landlord saying:

 “We have received a very good offer on the above property. The tenants are young professional tenants…

“City West Homes will most likely rent your property out to a tenant that is on House Benefits (sic). I’d imagine children will also be residing in the property too. 

“This will create lot’s (sic) more wear and tear on the property than professional tenants in my opinion, creating greater costs when you come to rent the property out again in the future. 

“If you only signed last night will City West Homes, and you would prefer this offer above, I would contact them and cancel the agreement you have signed. I’d imagine you would have a cooling off period when signing an agreement.” 

 

Foxtons email

Now, for some years many letting agents in London have been refusing to consider any prospective tenants on HB/LHA. In some boroughs, almost nothing is available.

But here is evidence of letting agents – Foxtons – specifically trying to argue a landlord into breaking a deal with the local authority, not just proffering what they think will be more money (it wasn’t an HB tenancy arranged by CityWest), but by disparaging tenants who might be claiming HB/LHA.

Of course the largest increase in HB/LHA claims over the last few years has been for working households, priced out of what they can afford themselves. But Foxtons would prefer to simply smear claimant tenants, in search of their own fees.

This aggressive approach goes beyond mere disinterest in a LHA tenant sector. What Foxtons are demonstrating here is that they are the active enemies of any attempt to find accommodation for the homeless in London. We should not forget that at the end of 2015, the cause of homelessness for 39% of those for whom an LA housing duty was accepted in London was ‘the end of a PRS tenancy’ – up from 10% in 2010. By far the biggest single cause of homelessness).

Foxtons will actively try to get landlords to break agreements with councils, by crude stereotypes and scare tactics. They have clearly decided to deliberately intervene to try to stop people getting affordable accommodation in London.

 

 

About Nearly Legal

NL is the former soubriquet of the founder of the blog. NL Redux is the author of certain kinds of, non-housing related, posts...
Posted in Benefits, Benefits and care, Homeless, Housing law - All and tagged , .

32 Comments

  1. Perhaps it is now time to follow the example of Ireland in making it unlawful to discriminate against those on HB/LHA – under Section 13 of the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015, it is unlawful for a landlord providing accommodation to discriminate against a person in receipt of rent supplement, housing assistance or any payment under the Social Welfare Acts:
    http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/important_changes_to_equality_law_for_rental_market.pdf

    • Foxtons did this too me, my landlord had sold up and I contacted foxtons as I wanted a decent landlord and not a rouge one. I am in reciept of HB as I am a part time law student and even I was turned away!! I think your suggestion is the way to go as people are ending up with rouge and doggy landlords and fear reporting them in case they are evicted…. Let’s change some laws!!

  2. A ‘cooling off period’?
    Any future unfortunate person who signs up with Foxtons’ might wish to use that in their argument when they need to pull out of an agreement recently signed.

  3. Whilst I in no way condone Foxton’s business methods, neither they nor private landlords are the cause of homelessness; it is a shortage of accommodation fuelling rent inflation and an LHA rate/benefits cap that prevents local authorities from offering a competitive rent.

    • Of course. Which I why I flagged up the difference between not accepting HB tenants and actively intervening to dissuade someone from taking them.

    • One of the biggest causes of homeless Chriss is the Section 21 no fault eviction, which private landlords happen to love. So I wd disagree that private landlords are not a cause of homelessness. In fact their whole business model is premised on it.

  4. On this note of homelessness, are any of you attending the protest outside Downing Street tonight: March against homelessness will be sleeping out

  5. Apart from being predatory and insulting, this is highly suggestive of a mole in the Council. That mole should be hunted down and removed from office. They are undoubtadely getting paid to do something other than their taxpayer funded job.

  6. The first is EVIDENCE OF what we have all suspected is normal activity that has been ongoing for many years.

    The second is that more and more allegedly social landlords are using AST’s and not just for introductory or starter tenancies (or tenants keeping ones nose clean) – and this will exacerbate the increase in homelessness due to AST and the serving of S21 Notices. I have recently come across a number of examples of (allegedly) social landlords having longstanding tenants on AST, greater than 5 years, and this trend is very worrying indeed and in an area where the council admits that 40%+ of its homeless cases are in work. In short some social landlords are just as bad as the likes of Foxtons

  7. Unfortunately I think you’ll find this kind of touting letter is standard fare amongst many estate and letting agents happy to snap up properties from under their competitors noses – it’s seen as fair game. And whilst it’s not nice to see HB tenants disparaged it is often true that tenants in underemployment spend more time in the property or those with kids will create more wear and tear than a single tenant or couple in full time employment.

    • absolutely agree… HB is no longer just for those who claim other state benefits.

    • Sandra, it is true that anyone, whether unemployed or not, with children, could potentially cause more damage to a property.

      Or not.

      Maybe they have very well behaved children.

      Similarly someone in full employment may spend more time at home than their unemployed neighbour if, for example, they are signed off work with long term health issues.

      What is “often true” is stereotyping subject to economic status. That is the only truth here.

    • And there it is, the ultimate landlord Shangi La, to rent out a property that nobody lives in, thus reducing wear and tear. At last, a star to navigate by.

      Many of the properties being procured by local authorities are for use as Private Sector Leasing (PSLs) whereby the property is leased to the council for 5 years with any damage and void periods underwritten by the council themselves who also often pay a sizeable finders-fee to the landlord on top.

      Can any letting agent boast the same?

  8. 650,000 tenants in work received Housing Benefit in May 2010. The latest figure for November 2015 is 1.1 million so in-work HB claimants were 1 in 8 of all claimants in 2010 (13%) and now approaching 1 in every 4 at 23%

  9. It would be lovely if we could stop thinking about property as an asset but rather a home for a family. That way we would think it’s perfectly acceptable for someone who pays rent for their home to spend time in it, not hope that they don’t .

    • Like “Human Resources” as opposed to personnel. People don’t matter, only money. The irony of it is that without produce, money is irrelevant. Most wealthy people don’t make money, or even earn it. They PROFIT from the hard work of others.

  10. in response to Joehalewood, a point of information – the use of ASTs by Housing Associations for the first year of a tenancy is equivalent to Local Authorities who have retained their housing stock using Introductory Tenancies (Housing Act 1996 section 124 etc.) or non-secure tenancies in the context of homelessness provision. Provided there are adequate review procedures and provided Housing Associations use ASTs for no other purposes I suggest the use of ASTs is acceptable.

    More importantly the case points to the weakness of English tenancy law.

    • HA also use ASTs for supported move-on accommodation where there is no LA homeless duty.. LAs had to cut Supporting People budgets leaving the messy situation of people on ASTs with no support. I came accross a case recently where a disabled HA tenant had been on an AST for over 5 years. It only came to light because they needed further adaptions. Another recent case of a complaint for someone who had only been a tenant for a year whose AST stated he must engage with support, no support was provided and there was no mechanism in place at the HA to review the tenure.

      AST have no place in social housing. Unfortunately, we don’t have sociaal housing anymore., just registered providers.

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  12. Just out of curiosity, how is it that the Foxton employee has wound up marking “(sic)” on his own email?

    • You’d have to ask the Standard. However, I gather Foxtons have admitted it. While saying ‘one bad apple’, ‘not policy’, and all those usual kind of things.

  13. Well its wanting a decent tenant not an HB tenant per Sharriegi
    15/04/2016 at 10:30 am ” I wanted a decent landlord and not a rouge one” those dreadful rouge landlords :)

    I despair over these provisions and the HPB, the subtitle ought to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic- which it is until the government accepts that it is no longer a supply side problem, but a structural economic and social time bomb that they need to be working on.

    • It remains a supply side; the government’s mistake has been in (1) increasing demand in a way which couldn’t increase supply without behavioural changes by private housebuilders and (2) misdiagnosing what needs to be supplied.

    • No, or at least not yet. Being in receipt of HB is not a protected category. While there may be an argument that this might amount to disability or geneder discrimination, that cae has not et been made and would require substantial evidence on indirect discrimination.

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