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Government benefit cuts fuel surge in homelessness from rented housing

Government benefit changes, including cuts to housing benefit, are to blame for increasing levels of homelessness from private rented housing, according to a new report published today.

A fresh study by the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University for the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has found that that a key driver of homelessness from the PRS has been introduction in 2008 of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

The research shows that the gap between LHA rates, used as a way of calculating housing benefit payments for low income households, and actual rents has increased in recent years and is expected to continue to grow in the future.


In fact, a quarter of landlords surveyed in this study reported that this gap was more than £100 per month.

According to the research team, security of tenure is not a cause of homelessness from the private rented sector, as evidence from the English Housing Survey shows that 90% of tenancies are ended by the tenant.

Rather the research team found that the LHA rates has a ‘double whammy’ effect that is pushing up homelessness because tenants in receipt of housing benefit are more likely than other tenant groups to have their tenancy end; and these households are then finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable, affordable accommodation in the private rented sector.

The report also found that in most cases where tenants are asked to leave their properties under Section 21 notices, there is a clear reason.

Half of the notices are used where tenants have rent arrears, are committing anti-social behaviour or are damaging the property.

Other common reasons include the landlord needing to take back possession of a property for sale or refurbishment. 

The report authors argue that this “raises questions” about whether the use of Section 21 notices can properly be described as ‘no fault’ evictions. They call for further research to be undertaken on how and why landlords use Section 21 notices.

Dr Chris O’Leary, deputy director for the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University and a co-author of the report, said: “Whilst current debate is focused on changes to the way that landlords reclaim possession of a property, this does not tackle reasons why they need to do so.

“With the demand for rented housing remaining high, our report calls for co-operation between councils, landlords and the government to support and sustain tenancies. This includes ensuring that benefits reflect the realities of today’s rents and work is undertaken to prevent rent arrears building in the first place.”

The report calls both for a review of the design and operation of the LHA and for  councils to develop strategies to work with private landlords to encourage the supply of private rented homes at LHA rates.

Commenting on the report, David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “This report puts paid to the idea that landlords spend their time looking for creative ways to evict their tenants. Most landlords ask their tenants to leave to protect their property. It would be a bizarre business model indeed to search for ways to get rid of your customers.

“The private rented sector can play a key role not just in housing the homeless but preventing people becoming homeless in the first place.

“Action is needed on a number of fronts to boost the supply of homes to rent to meet demand and reform the benefits and the court system to give confidence to both tenants and landlords.”

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Poll: Are you surprised that government benefit cuts is fuelling a sharp rise in homelessness from rented housing?


  • icon

    Well we didn’t see this coming and no mention of s24 either another main reason crazy how these idiots in London can’t see the implications from there meddling

  • icon

    They are calling for cooperation "to support and sustain tenancies".
    When councils pay housing benefit directly to tenants and advise them to stay in a property until the bailiffs arrive when they have failed to pay the rent, is in no way fostering cooperation?

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    The council's, the biggest landlords in the UK, will never ever support the private landlord, because we do a better job than them. We maintain our properties with our own money, we pay 100% council tax on our empty properties, we don't have mass fatalities in any of our properties, we respond immediatly to our tenants needs as we want our rent paid. We supply an Inventory on Check In. We carry out 2 or 3 monthly Inspections of our properties. We Check Out our tenants and return tenants deposits if no more than fair wear and tear. All very simple tasks which the council cant and dont do.

  • icon

    And they cannot understand why we say no D S S ??

  • James B

    Maybe shelter should take this on board.. or wishful thinking as it doesn’t fit with their donation raising agenda to hammer landlords out.
    Wonder how this helps their tenants / clients ?

  • icon

    Never ever should rent money be paid direct to a tenant.

    Until that changes, no UC tenants will be accepted into any of my properties

    Its not rocket science, yet London just does not get it


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