For 2 years I’ve battled depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Latterly I’ve battled a failing marriage and divorce proceedings. Still, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?! Well that’s fortunate as I’m going to need all my strength to deal with this next battle, finding a new home.
I haven’t worked since being diagnosed and I collect Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance and Housing Benefit. It’s not a massive amount, in fact it’s scarily less than I used to earn. It’s sufficient though, I get by, I was able to afford half the rent on the property I shared with my wife and have enough to cover a few bills.
Sadly, when you get a divorce, your wife is somewhat reluctant to continue sharing a one bedroom house with you! As my benefits alone wouldn’t cover the rent and my ex-wife’s salary would, it seems obvious she kept the lease on and I was left with the task of finding somewhere new to hang my hat.
Well the first option seemed obvious, speak to the council. I mean I’m quite ill and technically homeless. I have to remain in this area as I have all my medical help nearby. I presumed this is what council houses were for. It appears I was mistaken, the council seem to believe I chose to make myself homeless. It seems odd to me. I didn’t choose to be ill, which ultimately led to the demise of my marriage. I didn’t choose not to remain in the property, I simply couldn’t afford to. Can it really be that the expected option, was for me to remain in a small 1 bedroom flat with the person I had just divorced?
So stage 1 of my relocation plan hadn’t gone well, I decided to see what my options in the world of private lettings were. A quick search on a popular housing site brought me lots of possibilities. My heart leapt – 1 bedroom flats, studios, all in the correct areas I needed for doctors, therapists and psychiatrists, as well as the crisis care I sometimes required.
It almost seemed to good to be true, these places were all affordable and it seemed I had options – a 1 bedroom flat that would leave me very poor or a studio that would leave me reasonably poor. There was even a studio that would barely fit a single bed in that would leave me relatively cash rich! Ah, choices, the holy grail for anyone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was back in control of a situation that only hours earlier had seemed hopeless.
So I begun to click through the properties to see what amenities they had when suddenly I noticed a small line at the bottom of the description. It took me a moment to register that it was about to cause me problems. ‘NO DSS’
Aside from the fact it’s not been called the DSS since 2001, those two words are nothing short of a very sweeping form of discrimination in my eyes. Sure enough, I clicked the next property, and the next one, the same statements flashed up. NO PETS/DSS (I’m now on the same level as a dog, excellent) NO BENEFITS.
Everywhere I looked the same message came up. I may not have a job, but I have a guarantor, I understand that not working brings a problem for landlords but I have the financial side covered. So what’s the real issue here? They don’t want people on benefits because they think we are scum? They think that people on JSA are likely to destroy their postage stamp sized studio flats by sitting around all day in our own filth, crushing fag ends into the carpets and smashing windows through extreme boredom?
I regularly rant at people for watching trash TV like ‘How to get a council house’ or ‘Benefits Street’. The people in these shows are the minority. They don’t represent life on benefits. Every person who watches these shows and increases their ratings allows for more of this pejorative crap to be made. And Landlords watch stuff like this and they build a picture in their head of what their tenants will be like if they allow benefits recipients to rent from them.
I can’t work due to a disability. If someone subsequently won’t rent a property to me because of my situation, is that not discrimination? I find it offensive that someone earning minimum wage, the same amount of income that i have, can rent a property but I can’t. It’s even more baffling when you consider my income is guaranteed for the next 12 months anyway. I am left with one or two properties that have said on meeting me the landlord may be prepared to rent to a benefits claimant. Lucky for me it’s that studio that seems a bit tight on space. Quids in!
So just when you thought suffering from depression or disability was bad enough, wait until you have to go house searching…
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