Housing problems for low earners

MELANIE Selley’s call for a debate, or ‘conversation’ about the difficulties faced by the homeless and people who need to find a place to live, is timely (last week. Letters).

My contribution to the debate, based on the recent experiences of one of my relatives, is to call for legislation to stop estate agents and letting agents from refusing to rent properties to those who need to claim housing benefit (or Local Housing Allowance as it is now called).

This is clearly discrimination against those on low incomes, of whom there are many in Hastings.

Some of the agents even have notices in their windows saying that they will not accept potential tenants who claim the local housing allowance. Others are more subtle and only mention it after an expression of interest in a property.

And most will try to claim that it isn’t their own policy to deny a let to a claimant, but that it is landlords’ on whose behalf they are acting.

No doubt there are a few landlords who have had a bad experience with a past tenant not passing on the allowance and don’t want a recurrence, but it does certainly appear to be the policy of some, or even most, letting agents themselves.

Apart from making it illegal to discriminate in this way, there should be a policy reversal to make it once again permissible for landlords to insist on having the benefit paid directly to them, and that they should not be penalised if it is later discovered that the tenant has made a false claim to the local authority. How about it, Amber?

PAUL ASHTON

Norman Road,

St Leonards