Private landlords turning backs on benefits tenants
A third of private landlords are either considering or planning to cease letting homes to housing benefit claimants as a result of the government’s welfare reforms.
The findings were contained in a government-commissioned report into the government’s local housing allowance changes published yesterday by a research consortium led by Sheffield Hallam University.
LHA, paid to private renters, has been capped at between £250 and £400 a week from April 2011 for new claimants. The government has also set LHA rates in line with the bottom third of rents from April 2011, instead of the median and has increased the shared accommodation rate age limit.
Caps for existing claimants have been phased in from January this year.
The research, which involved a survey of landlords and tenants, was carried out last autumn, meaning it does not measure the impact on existing claimants.
The report found that 33 per cent of 1,867 landlords questioned said they were either planning or considering ceasing letting to LHA claimants as a result of the reforms.
More than a third of landlords (36 per cent) said they have tenants in arrears because of the LHA changes and 29 per cent said they have taken action to evict tenants, not renew or end their tenancies.
However, the surveys also showed nine in 10 tenants are up-to-date with their rent and only 3 per cent said they had to move home to make up rent shortfalls. More than a quarter said they have looked for a job to make-up the difference between their LHA and their rent.
Lord David Freud, welfare reform minister, said: ‘The research gives us an early insight into what is really happening and it shows the many scare stories about the effects of housing benefit reform are simply not materialising.
‘We have capped housing benefit so that people can no longer claim over £100,000 a year to live in large houses in expensive areas of London - this is the right and fair thing to do.’
Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the 3 per cent figure for claimants having to move masks the fact that many of them will be building up debt in the long term. ‘We would not see the effect of that immediately,’ he said. Mr Lister said the report does not look at the impact on existing claimants, many of whom are expected to meet rent commitments but with less LHA available.
Further research will be carried out to test the impact on existing claimants this autumn, with a report published next year.