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Reforms in housing benefits keep private landlords guessing

Date: (5 December 2012)    |    

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A private landlord’s association and a social housing firm have highlighted the challenges they would face in the aftermath of housing benefit changes and council tax changes. The changes would mean less financial support and stringent conditions for tenants in private and social housing.

The proposed changes in housing benefits would see benefits paid directly to tenants rather than the landlords raising doubts among the landlords that it would leave tenants unable to budget properly.

Another change would be moving tenants in big homes or losing housing benefit completely. This move by the government’s welfare reforms is to free up properties with spare bedrooms.
Not-for-profit Bolton at Home, which owns more than 18,000 properties, said it would take eight years to move all tenants “under-occupying” their homes.
Now, the Bolton-based North West Landlords’ Association, which represents private landlords, has too voiced its concerns.
Sharon Betton, its business development officer, said several of its tenants were going to experience poverty across the private, council and housing associations sectors. The landlords were concerned. Though they did not want to evict tenants but expected some return on their investment
They are worried that many tenants would fall into difficulties if limited incomes were reduced further and even more if they receive money in lump sum rather than budgeting.
A tenant on benefits would not be welcome as far as the landlord would be concerned meaning discrimination against the poorest who will have to fend themselves into poorer accommodation with the worst landlords eventually the society would suffer.
But she added the situation in Bolton could be more positive as the Bond Board was formed there 19 years ago and was one of most successful schemes in the country. A bond is offered to those who cannot afford a deposit, which works as a written guarantee, taking the place of a cash deposit. This work is done by a charity that works with homeless people and families.
The bond is payable at the end of a tenancy if there are rent arrears, theft or damage. Many private landlords have assisted the board and this has given them a realistic view of tenants’ difficulties.
Mrs Betton said landlords had already taken financial hits in recent years. Housing benefit dropped last year. For a single person aged under 25, it fell from £50 to £45. The £5 shortfall was almost impossible to collect so many landlords accepted reduced rents. Further reductions took place for single person under 35 without children living permanently with landlords get a lower payment.