It takes a lot to throw this morbid and delusional dome off course, but on the rare occasion it happens.
Last week, I received an email from a new landlord that posed a question that left me slightly mystified and strangely curious. I took a double-take just to ensure I read what I thought I read, and not what I wanted to read.
The email was short and sweet…
Hello I am new landlord and would like to take on DSS tenants and not sure who to contact about this?
Mind-blowing, and I’m not referring to the lack of “please” or “thank you”, although equally as mind-blowing as the question posed.
It’s pretty unusual for a new landlord to specifically sought after DSS tenants, but perhaps this chap knows something I don’t. For example, a new charitable landlord incentive scheme, which means DSS accepting landlords don’t get completely screwed over by the existing legislation and polcies.
But more worryingly, maybe he’s just one of those hopelessly naïve victims that’s been led astray; poisoned to believe that DSS tenants equals ‘guaranteed rent’. A vicious rumour that has been making its way around the circuit for many years, and often lead to the downfall of many good men, and a rumour I’ve actively attempted to squash.
Typically, new landlords that end up with DSS tenants do so because of circumstances led by inexperience, and not necessarily because they went to the nearest correctional detention centre to help the local community. Relax, I’m joking.
My point is, new landlords generally don’t go looking for DSS tenants. Rightly or wrongly so, most newbies want working professionals with an impeccable credit rating, which for whatever the reason may be, is completely the opposite status of a DSS tenant (hence why they’re “DSS tenants”). Experienced landlords, on the other hand, are more able and acceptable to dealing with higher risk tenants.
I’ve already made my position clear on DSS tenants, although it’s mostly misconstrued by already frustrated DSS tenants, and only manages to fuel their rage and frantic finger-wagging. Obviously I know where I’d like to shove those fingers after I’ve hacked them off with a blunt spoon. Anyhow, the bottom line is, I feel the system is broken and doesn’t protect landlords at all, leaving them extremely vulnerable. My gripe isn’t with the claimants, it’s with the system.
In any case, here are my tips for any landlord that wants to find/accept DSS tenants…
Understand DSS tenants
First and foremost, truly understand what a DSS tenant is; evaluate the pros and cons, and then make your decision on whether it’s the right path for you. I’m convinced the author of the email hasn’t got his facts straight, and requires a better understanding.
Don’t just take the word of your local DSS friendly letting agent or your mate, Bob the Landlord, who happens to be DSS friendly.
After doing your own research, you may sway either way. Here’s an entire section dedicated to DSS/DWP tenants. Enjoy.
I’d just to clarify, this post isn’t meant to encourage or discourage anyone from pursuing DSS tenants, I just think it’s important for every landlord to fully understand the implications of having DSS tenants.
Don’t pay for DSS tenants
Don’t part with your cash for a DSS tenant, there’s no need. Or at least, don’t pay a high-street letting agent to find you DSS tenants, and don’t accept one if they offer you one.
Let me try to put the situation into perspective.
As a consumer, you need to put a value on every product you buy, and that includes the cheap after-market condoms you acquire, down to every last service/tenant you use.
Letting agents will charge a fixed fee for any tenant they find, despite the tenant’s desirability. But in reality, tenants can and should be valued on their own merit because they aren’t all the same; some come attached with greater risks than others. Ultimately, some tenants are worth more than others.
For example, if a letting agent is charging you £500 for a “tenant-find” service, and they find you a ‘single parent DSS tenant’, do you think you’re getting value? You’re not. So tell your agent to keep searching.
Yes, the DSS tenant may pay on time, and may conclude to be the perfect tenant, but that’s not the point. The point is, for the same money, you could obtain two working professionals with immaculate credentials, which would be a significantly less risky alternative.
So if you had the choice, which tenant would YOU choose? It’s a no-brainer. You should always be trying to get the most value out of your money.
My first ever tenant was a DSS tenant, and it ended in an epic disaster. In retrospect, my naivety and stupidity was pretty amusing. At the time I didn’t even know what a DSS tenant was, all I knew was that my letting agent guaranteed I’d be getting rent directly from the Government, so it was a win/win situation. Getting payment from the Government sounded amazing, because obviously they’re going to be reliable payers. Of course, if it sounds too good to be true… well, you know the drill.
Inevitably, it didn’t work like I was led to believe- the tenant quickly ended up on my ‘shitlist’ after falling into arrears. I eventually had to start an eviction process to get her dumb-founded arse out of my property. My only saving grace was that I had rent insurance in place, and that was only by pure luck, because the agent arranged it as a ‘freebie’- otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered.
Needless to say, the entire exercise was an expensive mistake. Besides from losing out on rent, I paid the letting agent £700 for the privilege of finding me that donkey tenant. It soon became clear that I had my pants pulled down by a slimy snake-oil agent.
Fair play to him. Hope he’s rotting in hell with his penis tightly wrapped around his neck.
But my mistake was I didn’t value my money. I overpaid for a product that I knew nothing about.
Contact your local Council Benefit/Housing Department
Housing Benefit (or ‘Local Housing Allowance’, whatever you want to call it) was introduced because there weren’t enough Council Houses to accommodate everyone that required housing, so the Government looked upon landlords for assistance. You could say, landlords that accept DSS tenants are Knights in shining armour. Yeah, that’s precisely what I’d call them. Really.
Many local authorities are desperate for housing, so I would contact them directly to see if they can source some tenants. Unlike letting agents, they won’t charge you for the… I want to say… “privilege”, because you’ll be doing them a favour.
Put an Advert on Gumtree
Seriously, Gumtree is swarming with DSS tenants. The place is notorious for being a breeding ground for DSS tenants seeking accommodation.
Even when I place a “NO DSS TENANTS” disclaimer on my Gumtree advert, I still get several enquiries from them, attempting to encourage me to unearth my humanitarian side by reconsidering. Unfortunately, it never works, because I’ve been scarred too deeply by the system. However, just imagine how many enquiries I’d generate if I placed a “DSS WELCOME” disclaimer.
Here’s a guide on how landlords can put an advert on Gumtree. I don’t cover it in the article, but in this particular scenario, I would put “DSS WELCOME” in the advert title and description.
Use an Online Letting Agent
As said, I wouldn’t pay an high-street agent to find me a DSS tenant, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use an Online Letting Agent for as little as FREE, and get my property marketed across the biggest property portals e.g. Rightmove. But then again, if you’re going to stick your property onto Rightmove, you may as well find a tenant that’s not dependent on benefits.
DSS specific portals
I’ve recently noticed a few property portals specific to listing only “DSS friendly” properties/landlords. I haven’t spent much time on them, but it might be worth listing your property on those websites.
If anyone has any experience with any of the websites listed (or any other DSS portals), I would love to hear your story.
Always make it clear that you’re DSS friendly
DSS tenants have it tough, there’s no denying it.
In my opinion, there’s two main causes for it. Firstly, as already said, the system isn’t practical or helpful for landlords, which makes the prospect completely unappealing. Many landlords are initially warm to the idea of dealing with DSS tenants, but are then totally mortified and repelled by the concept once having dealt with a rogue DSS tenant, because the council are utterly useless/helpless when shit hits the fan. There’s absolutely zero support or accountability, and that’s usually enough to scare landlords away for life.
But also, probably which has caused more damage, is the copious amounts of criminal scum-bag claimants that have ruined the reputation for all genuinely deserving claimants. It’s important to note, a common misconception is that everyone receiving housing benefits are lazy bastards, that participates in antisocial behaviour and/or is walking around with dirty needles hanging out of their arses. But in reality, many are just genuinely disabled and/or suffering from chronic conditions.
Whether the claimant is genuinely deserving of your property or worthy of a cardboard box filled with decaying urine, they’re increasingly finding it tough to find DSS friendly landlords, so when they get a sniff of one, they’ll generally chew the landlord’s arm off.
If you’re DSS friendly, make it clear as day in all your marketing campaigns. I AM DSS FRIENDLY!
Efficient and thorough tenant referencing is ALWAYS necessary when dealing with any type of tenant, but it’s especially crucial with high-risk tenants. Like it or not, DSS tenants are grouped within the highest of highest risk brackets.
It goes without saying, all the regular checks and safety procedures should be in place, which includes, but not limited to, keeping tenancies short (6 months), rent guarantee insurance, tenant Guarantor, and tenant referencing. Be warned, many insurers may not cover DSS tenants, so sift through the ones that do. You may have to pay a premium price to get covered, but it’s worth it.
Here’s a more in-depth guide on referencing tenants.
BTL Insurance & BTL Mortgages
I also want to make a quick but crucial point.
Got anything else to add? Let’s hear it. It will be appreciated as always.
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.