Nearly three quarters of the people who completed Citizens Advice West Oxfordshires (CAWO) recent Housing Survey had difficulty finding suitable private rented housing in West Oxfordshire.  Of the many respondents who had issues finding private rental accommodation, almost one third said it was because their income or benefits did not cover the rent.

Another third said that the upfront charges or initial fees involved were unaffordable, something which it is hoped will be less of a barrier when the Tenant Fees Act comes into force this June.

However 1 in 10 people who have had problems finding private rental accommodation said that they had been refused to be considered as a tenant because they receive Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. 

The CAWO private housing survey focused on hearing from people affected by high rents, having issues with landlords or letting agents or struggling to find private housing on a low income. 

One respondent said “You need to earn three times your salary to be able to rent a house in this area (Oxfordshire) so for anyone on an average wage this is out of reach. The problem is very real and is leaving people homeless. They can’t rent privately as they don’t earn enough, they have to find very high deposits and there is no social housing.

The council can help with deposits but they do it through a housing bond. This means that the council have to inspect the property and deal with the estate agents. In my case, if I did this the estate agent would say no to me because they do not want to deal with councils. There are many people who could take the house without the hassle of being inspected by the council. The estate agent would go with the easy option of course.
Something really does need to be done. “

Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire are working with the WODC, letting agents and landlords to find ways to make private housing more accessible and affordable (particularly for those on low incomes) and security of tenure. 

Notes to editors

  • Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire is an independent charity that exists to provide free, confidential, independent advice to people in West Oxfordshire.
  • The ‘Private Rented Housing survey run by Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire from January to March 2019 had over 120 responses. 
  • The Tenant Fees Act sets out the government’s approach to banning letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector and capping tenancy deposits in England.

The aim of the Act is to reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, and throughout, a tenancy, and is part of a wider package of measures aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords to deliver a fairer, good quality and more affordable private rented sector.

  • The ‘Settled and Safe’ spring 2018 research highlights that a 2-bedroom home near Witney now costs on average £1212 per month. However, as the local housing allowance is just £769.62, the majority of people on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will have to find an extra £450 per month – a huge struggle for people who are already at a financial disadvantage. In addition, a recent search showed just 2% of properties in West Oxfordshire were affordable on the £769 allowance which demonstrates the clear need for more affordable housing.
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