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New LHA Rates for 2014 -2015 Published

New LHA Rates for 2014 -2015 Published

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates Change In April

Every year the Government publish Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates that are periodically reviewed and payment levels in some UK regions may change without notice.

The April 2014 – March 2015 LHA rates have now been published and the revised list makes interesting reading for landlords and letting agents who are willing to accept tenants claiming benefits.

UK private rental sector landlords are able to ensure rental property profits by allowing their properties to be let to tenants claiming housing benefit (HB), with local authority rental payments exceeding buy-to-let mortgage payments.

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New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

Research from an independent consortium led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University covering the impact of recent Housing Benefit reform in the private rented sector was published on Monday 13th May.

The report examined the attitudes of tenant claimants and private rented sector buy-to-let landlords in 19 areas across the UK, following the Housing Benefit and Welfare Reforms that were ordered by the coalition Government in April 2011.

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform said:”Reform of Housing Benefit in the private rented sector was absolutely necessary to control a system that saw spending double over a decade to more than £20 Billion (GBP) a year. However, it is also necessary to monitor and follow the reforms to help us build and learn for the future”.

Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), said:”This report provides findings from in-depth interviews undertaken with tenant claimants, landlords and housing advisors in early stages of the implementation of the reforms.

The CRESR also conducted separate analysis of all UK Housing Benefit claims to provide an insight to the initial impacts of the welfare reforms across the UK.

The CRESR report finds:

  • Large numbers of tenants claiming benefits have not been forced to move out of rental properties during the study
  • In 120 UK local authority areas, overall reductions to a tenant’s Housing Benefit / Local Housing Allowance (LHA) have been averaged at £5 (GBP) or less
  • The extra £130 Million (GBP) of support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to local authorities to help tenant claimants with Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) has assisted tenant claimants well where Housing Benefit / LHA reductions have been greater than the national average.

The consortium is led by Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies, from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. Other key team members included Peter Kemp of Oxford Institute of Social Policy, Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Ben Marshall from IPSOS-MORI.

The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK’s leading academic research centres specialising in social and economic regeneration, housing and labour market analysis.

The consortium’s research started in April 2011 and will run until this Autumn (2013) and covers the effects of:

  • Setting Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates from the median to the 30th percentile of local market rents from April 2011
  • Capping Local Housing Allowance rates by property size from April 2011 to:
    • £250 per week for 1 bed
    • £290 per week for two bed
    • £340 per week for three bed
    • £400 per week for four bed or more
  • The increased Government contribution to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budget
  • Increased powers of local authorities to make direct payments to landlords to support tenant claimants in order to retain and secure tenancies in the private rental sector.
  • Allowing an additional bedroom within the size criteria used to assess Housing Benefit claims in the Private Rented Sector where a disabled person, or someone with a long-term health condition, has a proven need for overnight care and it is provided by a non-resident carer who requires a bedroom.

The full research ‘Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report’ is available here: Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report

The Scottish Government along with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) and Welsh Assembly Government are working in close partnership with the DWP and each contributing to the costs of the review.

Further CRESR reports are expected to be published in early 2014.

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Landlords’ right to receive direct rent payments from Local Authorities will be scrapped under the new benefit system.

As correctly pointed out to “Spotlight” by reader Paul Barrett, the details of the Government’s new procedures for the implementation and payment of Universal Credit have been released and a private landlord’s right to insist on direct rent payments will be scrapped.

There will be increasing amounts of landlords that will now refuse to take Housing Benefit claimants because of the system rather than the claimants themselves

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents around 15,000 private landlords, have reacted angrily to the proposals, stating that when the new benefit system is introduced in April 2013, payments will be made directly to tenants and it will be up to the tenant to pay their rent or not.

Currently, Private Rental Sector (PRS) landlords can ask for Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to be paid directly to them if the tenant is more than 8 weeks in rent arrears or if the tenant is deemed vulnerable.

With the new Universal Credit system due to come into force next year, including  benefits such as local housing allowance, the new procedures will apply across the board to local authority tenants, housing association tenants and tenants in the private rented sector.

The RLA have raised a number of serious concerns about the proposals, saying that there is no right of redress for UK landlords if things go wrong, and that the whole concept creates risk for landlords. It has also attacked the proposals for lack of clarity, saying they have replaced ‘regulations’ with ‘guidance’.

It says that landlords will become increasingly unwilling to accept tenants on benefits.

RLA policy director, Richard Jones, said: “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed, and although the objective of helping tenants to manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this. There will be a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants (at a time when there is huge pressure on social housing), increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property (or increased interest rate to reflect the risk), much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”

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