Landlords 'will get extra protection when dealing with non-paying tenants'
Fri 04 Feb 2011
The government has confirmed it is looking at giving additional protection to landlords whose tenants on housing benefits have not paid the rent they owe.
Welfare minister Lord Freud stated that landlords have many concerns about what action they can take against those who "play the system".
He has therefore pledged to investigate what can be done, as the chances of reclaiming the money after a tenant on housing benefit has been evicted are minimal.
This collectively can be a considerable sum, as about £276 million worth of rent was not paid during December 2010.
The government's comments have been welcomed by the British Property Federation (BPF), which said the status quo is not encouraging landlords to stay in the housing benefit market.
Director of real estate policy Ian Fletcher stated that they could "easily take paying tenants" in areas where demand is high.
He added that the government cannot let tenants on benefits get away with living rent-free if it wishes the private rented sector to continue offering accommodation to this group.
Emma Chadwick, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "At present, many landlords feel that their interests are unfairly prejudiced simply due to the time it takes to recover possession where they are unlikely in the majority of cases to recover any arrears.
"Steps to speed up the court process of recovering possession and increasing the number of bailiffs to enforce court orders would improve the situation.
"The government also needs to revisit the policy adopted by most local authorities to encourage tenants to remain in properties until evicted by bailiffs even though in doing so they will incur more arrears, which puts prospective landlords off.
"Landlords should be aware that by prompt service of notice when arrears first accrue they can limit the delay."
This comes after a BPF survey revealed that more than 88 per cent of landlords in the housing benefit sector do not intend to reduce their rents after the government cuts the benefits for tenants.
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