Landlords are jamming up the housing benefit system

"My time as a council benefits officer would be better spent explaining the convoluted welfare system to those receiving housing benefit." [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.]

“My time as a council benefits officer would be better spent explaining the convoluted welfare system to those receiving housing benefit.” [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.]

This is what happens when you have a system in which too few rented dwellings are available, and to people who must rely on benefits to pay for them.

If the ‘fair rent’ system wasn’t limited to tenancies that began before the Rent Act 1977 was abolished, and if more council houses were available, and if working people were paid an actual living wage, rather than the Conservative government’s fake, matters might be very different indeed.

Hmm. I hear Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is interested in re-starting the council house-building programme…

I work in the benefits department for a local council, providing advice and support on housing benefit and council tax.

My time, and public money, would be better spent helping benefit claimants navigate the convoluted welfare system rather than pandering to private landlords.

Over the past 10 years, the amount of money paid in housing benefit to private landlords like Mr X has nearly doubled. A national shortage of affordable housing has allowed people like him to line their pockets with housing benefit payments, and take up benefits officers’ valuable time. My department has even had to resort to providing a designated officer to deal with one particularly notorious landlord.

But, difficult landlords aside, what we really need is a better way to explain, in simple terms, the information we benefits officers require in order to calculate your benefits.

Many claimants don’t understand the difference between their local benefits services, run by the council, and the Department of Work and Pensions. Claimants tell the DWP about a change in circumstance and assume that’s all they need to do to ensure their benefits will be calculated correctly. But in fact, they need to tell us, too.

Mr X doesn’t understand the benefits system either.

Source: I want to help you get the right benefits, but your landlord is taking up all my time | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian


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7 thoughts on “Landlords are jamming up the housing benefit system

  1. jaguarjon

    Tory MPs are major beneficiaries; Benyon et al pull down £100k plus a year in HB whilst decrying ‘welfare culture’. There’s so much smoke and mirrors who knows which way is ‘up’?

  2. joanna

    What about landlords who are trying to pay the mortgage on their properties, and they are not getting payments on time from the DWP, wouldn’t you be on the phone constantly? We always assume that every private landlord has lots of properties, they don’t. When tenants move out and leave the house wreaked, the landlord has to pay for it all. In some cases the DWP are upwards of £6000 in arrears. I certainly would not like be a landlord, especially with the benefit cap screwing everything up. There are two sides to everything and some private landlords, those who just trying to make a little money from their properties are getting a hard time.

    Of course I am not talking about rich slumlords, of which there too many, but those who just want to pay their mortgage or surprisingly those who genuinely want to help people and end up having to go to tribunals in support of their tenants, no-one hears about those.

  3. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    As the majority of landlords are most likely to be Conservatives it is in the interest of the party to arrange for them to be kept that way. The public has to pay for much of social housing but that does not bother the Cons as they and their sort take advantage of it. FAIR Controlled rents are the only fair way of dealing with this disastrous situation for both landlords and tenants.

  4. Zippi

    What is also needed is a properly regulated private rental “sector.” The current situation means that anybody who has a few extra quid and can afford to buy ANOTHER domestic dwelling that that they can be a landlord. There’s a whole lot more to being a landlord than having people pay you exorbitant amounts of money. It is a transaction, therefore somebody gets something for that money; a service, specifically housing. I was paying £500 a month for a room in a not brilliant flat but it was sold to me as a house of actors so, I moved in. I provided my own furniture and even the white goods (in a flat share). My landlord, a lawyer, no less (who showed little regard for, nor knowledge of housing law) got rid of the actors, one of whom was evicted illegally and replaced them with students. He made my life absolute Hell, to the extent that my career was nearly ended and I suffered a breakdown. I am, at present, homeless but it suits, because I am on tour.
    Conversely, an ex-girlfriend of mine has taken up landlady status in Birmingham. She has joined the National £andlords’ Association (which costs money) and is making sure that she does everything by the book; fire doors, clearly marked fire exits, a licence for a house of multiple occupation, unlike my former landlord who tried to worm his way out of his responsibility and was more concerned about his fancy new door, for which it took 3 days to get keys cut (when all that he needed was a new lock) than he was about getting the doors and windows fixed in the flat and perhaps, a fire door, pest control (cockroaches and mice) a licence for a house of multiple occupation and fulfilling his obligations to his tenants/ licensees, instead of passing the buck. In the end, I know not how many people were living in the flat, let alone who they were. Sadly (he called the police onto me but I had catalogued the course of events – months of harrassment and unjust and probably unlawful treatment – some are to harrowing to recount), it is a civil matter so, all that I could do was to pack up my things and get out, even before my contract was ended so, I was paying rent on a place where I was not living. My ex-landlord is just one example and I am sure that he is not the worst, not by far but I had terrible trouble, trying to get help; nobody seemed to want to know and most of the solicitors who deal with landlord/ tenant disputes take the side of the landlord so, where does that leave people who need a safe place to live? Your home should be your haven, your safe place, not a place of anguish, consternation, a place that you don’t want to be and will avoid at all costs.
    There are few things in life that we NEED; a home is one such thing. How have we arrived, again, at a situation in which peoples homes are ransomed, in which people are blackmailed, threatened, left sitting ducks? When was the last time that we had a responsible government that took care of those whom it was elected to?

  5. Little king truth must be told

    They forget people with no place to go cause more problems in cities,because they become more fearless and dangerous to the one that have a place to live,not all of them,but percentage is high enough to effective enough to cause(literally) a big stink in every neighborhood and the worse of it is; the low class drug dealers upgrade and move into the lovely neighborhoods and they bring low paid(literally) HIGHER help to protect and over see their investments and the one that purchase their products will soon rapidly come to get what they need to sustain their American dream staying high and living those biblical lies.
    I blame every government on this planet for thinking they can hide cultures true history to benefit their own families pockets, foreign now the truth is coming out and those that lie shall cook in the same blood they spilled to get where they are now!
    They should have kept real when they first wrote the first lie,and stopped it then,but now their going to have keep trying to De-Populate the world,but even that’s back firing in their faces!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The main issue here is the amount of time councils are having to spend educating greedy landlords about matters that are nothing to do with the DWP.
      I wonder why you are trying to pretend it is not.

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