Cameron wrong on private rents, survey suggests
By Graham Fahy
A survey of more than 200 councils has revealed no evidence to support Mr Cameron's claim to parliament that private rents were falling.
Inside Housing said only 36 out of 204 councils contacted reported any rent reductions following changes by the Department For Work And Pensions in April 2011 which allow direct payment of local housing allowances (LHA) to landlords. The procedural amendment was expected to 'exert downward pressure' on rents.
Seventy councils said there had been no rent reductions with 98 unable to provide any data at all.
The reductions reported by the 36 councils were extremely low, with most in single figures. For example, 12 councils reported a total of 65 private landlords had reduced rents between them – an average of fewer than six each.
"We have had cases where the landlord has stated that the only way they will grant a tenancy is if LHA payment is made directly, but a vanishingly small number are prepared to reduce the rent charged", a spokesperson for Chelmsford Council in Essex told the journal.
Landlord bodies say that private landlords, particularly those in high-demand areas, simply no longer let homes to tenants receiving LHA.
"When there is an alternative to taking tenants on benefit, landlords will always take it, it is simpler", said Chris Town, vice chair of the residential landlords association.
The crisis is likely to worsen following the introduction of a cap on local housing allowance payments last month.
The government has capped all housing benefit payments at £250 a week for a one-bedroom property and a maximum of £400 for a place with four or more bedrooms.