LHA Pathfinder report highlights letting activity

Key early findings from the evaluation of the Local Housing Allowance Pathfinders, are published today.

The report is part of a series that gives feedback on the evaluation and looks at the early impact of the LHA on landlords and letting agents, around a year after its introduction in each of the nine Pathfinders. The report focuses on the impact on them of the LHA, particularly in terms of their letting decisions and strategies.

Key findings show that landlord and letting agent activity in terms of changes in portfolio size largely followed the predictions the respondents had made with regard to their future intentions at the baseline stage.

The majority of respondents had made no change to their number of lettings, but where changes had taken place they appeared to reflect respondents’ longer-term portfolio strategies. Changes to portfolio size had occurred for a range of reasons, many of which were unrelated to the introduction of the LHA.

Awareness of the LHA was common amongst the respondents. 85% of landlords and letting agents had heard of the new benefit and of these, 68% knew the rates that were payable to different household sizes. However, satisfaction with the LHA was not widespread. Of respondents who had heard of the LHA, 56% say that it had made them less likely to want to let to Housing Benefit tenants.

Landlords’ and letting agents’ unwillingness to let to tenants on LHA was often explained by actual experience of rent arrears under the system, although some were unwilling due to their fear, rather than actual experience, of rent arrears.

Difficulties with arrears do not appear to have been offset, at this stage of the evaluation, by other benefits that were intended to accrue from the introduction of the LHA. For example, about as many respondents thought that LHA processing times were quicker as thought they were slower than under the previous system, and information on the LHA was often thought to be neither harder nor easier to acquire than under the former Housing Benefit system.

There was some variation in the experience of and attitude towards the LHA amongst different landlord types. Corporate landlords were the least likely to be satisfied with the workings of the new regulations, and were more likely to be having difficulties with rent payment methods and the accrual of rent arrears.

These problems were perhaps reflected in the marked withdrawal from letting to claimants on LHA that was evident amongst corporate landlords. Although this landlord group was relatively small in number, they often have large portfolios. Both individual and couple landlords and letting agents noted an increase in demand from LHA tenants, and many thought this was because other landlords had stopped letting to them.