RLA welcomes government U-turn on direct payments in Northern IrelandMake Text Bigger
RLA welcomes news that the Department for Work and Pensions will allow direct payments of housing benefits to be made to landlords in Northern Ireland.
However Ministers at the DWP have objected to the implementation of the same policy across the rest of the UK, arguing that payments to tenants will promote financial responsibility.
Following discussions with the UK DWP Minister, Lord Freud, Northern Ireland’s Social Security Minister Nelson McCausland confirmed the policy in a statement to members of the Assembly. He explained that “This is an important change as it will help to avoid rent arrears, with all the implications that can have for claimants and their families.”
This comes after the release of a report from the National Housing Federation highlighting the 86% increase in the number of working people now claiming housing benefit since 2009. Comments from tenants responding to this confirm that some are having to lie to their landlords about receiving housing benefit given their reluctance to take on benefit recipients, because of past difficulties with getting paid.
Direct payments to landlords has been shown to provide them with greater assurance that the rent will be paid and so increases the amount of accommodation available to benefit recipients giving them better choice.
Commenting on the developments, Chris Town, Vice Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said:
“With 9.1% of all rent in the private rental sector being in arrears this is a situation which is simply not sustainable for either tenant or landlord.
“Both parties in the Coalition before the general election pledged to introduce direct payments to landlords. Organisations working with tenants including Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Trust all support tenants having the choice to have their rent paid directly to landlords.
“The Government should get out of the way and trust tenants to know what is best for them. If it’s good enough for Northern Ireland it should be good enough for the rest of the country.”
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