A joint study by GMB and The Mirror newspaper has looked into the large sums company landlords are receiving in housing benefit from councils for welfare tenants renting their properties. Councils could not reveal the amounts going to individual private landlords but the implication from the report is that many are benefiting to the same degree. The tone of the report is one of outrage both at the greed of landlords and at councils for having to pursue this policy.
Rentify believes this is flawed and unfair, and is especially unhelpful at a time when it is clear that the private rented sector will have an important role to play in solving our housing crisis. The report focuses on a minority – those receiving the higher payments - and speaks of ‘billions going into fat cats [sic] wallets and off-shore tax havens’. The ultimate implication, however, is that the vast majority of landlords with benefits tenants are benefiting at the expense of everyone else (‘Landlords Hit Housing Benefit Jackpot’ and ‘Landlords are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system’). And this conclusion is apparently reached without any consideration of the high costs which landlords must cover or the fact that most have just one or two properties and simply want good tenants paying a stable rent.
There is some sense amongst the invective; The study does highlight the inefficiency inherent in the system as it costs 29% more in housing benefit for a council to house a benefits tenant with a private landlord than with a housing association or social landlord. But again this is not the landlords’ fault. It comes back to the shortage of housing, which is where the government should be directing its money. Such landlord-bashing headlines divert attention from the real housing issues of today, one of which is just how beneficial the private rented sector is and will continue to be.