Landlords blamed for spiralling housing benefit bill

Landlords blamed for spiralling housing benefit bill

13:02 PM, 17th November 2010, About 14 years ago

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The row over cutting housing benefits for tenants in private rented homes is rumbling on as the government is accused of fiddling the figures to make landlords look bad.

Two landlord lobby groups are taking welfare reform minister Lord Freud to task over his comments about private landlords.

Lord Freud alleged some ‘unscrupulous’ landlords were increasing rents to make housing benefit tenants hand over more cash because they knew local councils would pay up regardless.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and British Property Federation (BPF) claim this is not true – and they have highlighted the government’s own figures to prove their point.

Both groups have written to Lord Freud insisting he withdraw his remarks against landlords.

Richard Jones, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, added: “Unfortunately, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) seems to have embarked on a campaign to slur the vast majority of landlords who rent their properties to benefit recipients.”

The RLA and BPF analysis of DWP research shows almost 70% of the spiralling £21 billion a year housing benefit bill comes from new claimants who are mainly unemployed from the recession.

Another 17% relates to transferring homes from council to housing associations, who charge higher rents than councils.

The remaining 13% derives from private landlords charging higher rents.

From April, housing benefit payments will be capped at £400-a-week.

Many fear the move will force large numbers of tenants to move to cheaper homes because they will not be able to afford to make up the lost benefit from other income. Many housing benefit claimants are on fixed incomes or unemployed.

Opposition comes from across the political spectrum – Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson has spoken out against “Kosovo-style social cleansing” of making poorer households move out of the capital, while the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens feels the plan will create “townships” for the poor.

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