I've heard concerns from a number of different sources now that new method of paying housing benefit, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is not working in the manner which it was intended, to give more flexibility, choice and responsibility to tenants.
LHA was introduced last year, replacing the old housing benefit system for new tenancies. Instead of benefit being paid directly to landlords, it now goes straight to tenants, who are expected to take responsibility for passing on the rent money to their landlord. In practice, The Landlords Association now reports that many tenants choose not to do so and this appears to be causing real problems which are impacting on the already pressed social housing sector.
It's reported that many landlords are facing repossession because rent receipts, which they rely on for their own mortgage payments, fail to arrive. I've heard one story of a landlord who has turned in the keys of a dozen properties through falling into arrears with her own mortgages as a consequence.
The Landlords Association warns that LHA will contribute to a shrinking of housing supply for benefit claimants, as landlords turn away from the risks, with the result of more pressure being placed on social housing, which in turn will affect the most vulnerable tenants and increase homelessness.
Without a sense of the true national extent of the picture, it's hard to reach a conclusion but it does appear clear that among a specific and more vulnerable segment of the dependent population receiving housing benefit, passing the money to the claimant rather than direct to the landlord, is proving far too much of a temptation for those who live for the moment rather than thinking ahead about the rent.