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BPF calls for housing benefit paid direct to landlords

The British Property Federation is warning that the government was in danger of breaking a pre-election promise to pay housing benefit directly to landlords.

Responding to reforms of the housing benefit system today, the BPF welcomed plans for a limited return to direct payment but urged ministers not to backtrack on pre-election pledges to restore direct payment in full.

Lord Freud, the minister for Welfare Reform, today unveiled plans to give local authorities the power to re-introduce direct payment, but only in exceptional circumstances, for a limited time, and only if landlords lower their rents.

But the BPF argued that this assumes that housing benefit keeps rents artificially high.

It claims many areas have such high demand for housing that benefit cuts will make little difference to what landlords charge.

Conservative party ministers had pledged to restore full direct payment before May’s general election.

Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the BPF, said: “Restoring direct payment to all private landlords was an unequivocal Conservative party pre-election promise, which should be honoured

“Without payment to landlords, taxpayers might well ask why politicians are not protecting them from hundreds of millions of pounds in squandered housing benefit, and why government is not doing more to keep people in their homes during tough times. We urge local authorities to ignore the small print and apply these new rules broadly so that landlords are offered the support to keep renting to claimants.

“There is a strong body of evidence that shows that the Government’s policy of paying Local Housing Allowance to tenants leads to rent arrears and evictions. And as the Government’s reductions in LHA take effect, it is likely that more tenancies will be under pressure as tenants struggle to pay the rent.”

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