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Press Release: Not wanted here – private housing sector says “no” to housing benefit claimants

Published: 29 Apr 2014


A recent study by the Toynbee Hall Welfare Reform Taskforce sought to establish whether landlords and letting agents are discriminating against tenants who receive housing benefit.

The newly published research found that:

-          80% of letting agents will not accept a tenant claiming housing benefit

-          Over 60% only accept “professionals, workers or the private sector”

-          £3,506 is the average up-front payment required by prospective tenants

The findings offer a clear insight into how a depleted council house stock, welfare reform changes and rapidly rising rents are resulting in private tenants claiming housing benefits becoming squeezed out of Tower Hamlets.

The most serious repercussions are likely to be felt by families who will be unable to access affordable housing within the borough. These families will be forced to move out of Tower Hamlets, leaving behind vital support structures and facing the prospect of changing jobs and schools.

Toynbee Hall believes that there is a serious need for better information and support networks for private tenants many of whom are becoming increasingly isolated. Also, without structural changes such as an increase in the supply of social housing or measures to absorb the disproportionate impact of welfare reform, Tower Hamlets will no longer be a place where private tenants in receipt of housing benefit will be able to live.

Graham Fisher, Chief Executive of Toynbee Hall said “The findings of the research confirm our thoughts regarding the increased marginalisation of private tenants in receipt of housing benefits in Tower Hamlets. We are extremely concerned for families and individuals who are unable to access affordable housing in the borough.”

As a direct result of this research Toynbee Hall’s Tenancy Talks Service have created a resource for private renters negatively impacted by welfare reform. It contains information and advice for renters in Tower Hamlets affected by welfare reform and is available at

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Notes to editors:

  1. For more information contact Alexandra Wilkinson, Communications & Events Coordinator, on 020 7392 2925 or email
  2. The research was conducted within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets between October 2013 and February 2014.  A mystery shopper exercise was conducted with 87 letting agents within the borough.
  3. The average up-front costs are based on a median rent for a two bedroom property in Tower Hamlets of £370 per week, with an agent seeking 4-weeks deposit, one month’s rent in advance and an administration fees of £300.
  4. The full report is available online
  5. Case study is available on request.
  6. Toynbee Hall, founded in 1884, is a community organisation that pioneers ways to reduce poverty and disadvantage.  Based in the East End of London, it gives some of the country’s most deprived communities a voice, providing access to free advice and support services and working with them to tackle social injustice.
  7. Toynbee Hall has been a catalyst for social reform in the UK for almost 130 years, and continues to bring together communities, organisations and policy makers to create new ways to help those who find themselves in poverty today.
  8. Toynbee Hall was research partner to the Tower Hamlets Fairness Commission, which was set up to tackle inequality in the borough. Graham Fisher, Toynbee Hall Chief Executive, is a Tower Hamlets Fairness Commissioner. Between November 2012 and March 2013 the Commissioners gathered evidence based on research and dialogue with residents, businesses, and voluntary and community groups. The Commission’s findings challenge the council, big business and government to adopt radical policies to stimulate housing, jobs and fair credit in boroughs like Tower Hamlets.High quality photos of service users and the surrounding area are available on request.