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Benefits reform will lead to growing arrears

This is set to be replaced by the Universal Credit in 2013, which aims to simplify the system by combining all in-work benefits into a single payment.

Under current proposals from the Government the housing element of Universal Credit will be paid directly to claimants to encourage personal responsibility and help claimants make the transition to work, although landlords will receive payments directly should the claimant fall into considerable arrears by persistently defaulting.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud has announced that direct payments of the new credit system will be tested by six councils and their housing associated partners.
But, Graham Kinnear Managing Director at Landlord Assist says the new plans do little to secure landlords’ income and protect them from rent arrears.

Graham Kinnear, MD at Landlord Assist says: “There is enormous evidence which suggests that tenants in receipt of housing benefit do not pass this on to their landlords. With the cost of living increasing it is very easy for tenants to spend benefit money on other things rather than rent.

“We have dealt with cases in the past where landlords have been at risk of having their property repossessed due to tenants retaining the housing benefit and the landlord unable to evict them quickly enough in order that they can gain a rent paying tenant and resume their own mortgage payments.

“If payments under the new system aren’t made directly to landlords then many will be tempted to leave the social housing in favour of the private market where tenants are more likely to have a regular income and good credit record.”

Stephen Parry, Commercial Director at Landlord Assist says: “Landlords should receive payment for housing they provide and shouldn’t be exposed to arrears because tenants have pocketed the rent.

“If the Government had any faith in housing benefit tenants paying their rent and bills then they would operate a similar system with council tax benefit. Not surprisingly this isn’t the case!”

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