MPs slammed by agents for failing to help private renters
MPs on a key Select Committee have been criticised by the letting agents’ trade body for failing to probe how Local Housing Allowance rates could be reviewed to help private tenants.
The Select Committee on Work and Pensions – an all-party group chaired by Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms – has considered measures that could be taken to ease the cost of living’s impact on the general public.
Its key recommendations, in a report out this week, include a pause in deductions from benefits to give extra breathing space to struggling families, a review and increase of benefit cap and the introduction of a new strategy to boost Pension Credit take-up, and the reform of the IT used across the social security system.
However, Propertymark chief executive says the committee’s report has missed “a huge opportunity” by failing to look at a review of Local Housing Allowance rates.
Nathan Emerson continues: Even before the cost of living crisis, a review was desperately needed in order to keep up with rises in rental prices and with recent hikes, it has never been so important.
“Our latest data for June 2022 tells us that 80 per cent of our members saw month-on-month rent prices increasing.
“Incentives to remain in the sector are few and far between for landlords, and with further legislative requirements on the horizon, an overwhelming 80 per cent of agents who responded to our A Shrinking Private Rented Sector? survey said that the number of landlords leaving had increased over the past three years.
“At a time where more privately rented homes are desperately needed to combat the ever-widening gap in supply and demand, the UK Government need to take a serious look at upcoming legislative changes before the drought in stock and further investment worsens.”
Speaking about the report’s overall recommendations, Timms says: “Inflation is at a 40 year high, with spiralling energy, food and fuel prices adding up to a cost of living crisis not seen for a generation and a bleak outlook for many families.
“Deductions by the Department of Work and Pensions from benefits are contributing to the hardship and the Government should give those struggling some much needed breathing space by following its own advice to other creditors and pausing repayments until the threat of inflation recedes.
“Ministers also need to urgently review and uprate the benefit cap. The decision to exempt cost of living payments from the cap suggests the government knows it is set too low to effectively cover households’ now rapidly rising costs.
“A properly functioning social security safety net should be agile enough to respond to worsening economic conditions, but the high levels of inflation have laid bare the dysfunctional nature of parts of the system – not least that any increase in benefits is already seven months out of date when it takes effect.
“While the government’s emergency measures and one-off payments are welcome, there is no substitute for regular, predictable income when it comes to households trying to get by. Lump sum payments may not be needed if uprating was not so impotent in the face of rising prices. The government must urgently increase the speed with which the DWP’s systems can make changes to benefit and pension rates to make sure the social security safety net lives up to its name for the most vulnerable people in our society.”