Dudley North MP Ian Austin has demanded the government stop paying Housing Benefit to “dodgy landlords renting out unfit homes”.
Austin says he often meets vulnerable people living in unfit accommodation being paid for through benefits. He says tenants have very few rights and are often unwilling to complain because landlords often end their tenancy.
Housing Benefit is often paid to the tenant and the new Universal Credit will see various benefits “rolled up” into one payment with no checks are all on the condition of the property taxpayers’ money is being used to rent.
Austin’s raised the issue in the House of Commons this week and highlighted research from Birmingham-based think tank the Human Cities Institute which shows that:
- 400,000 families with children are among those living in 1.3m substandard private rented properties with problems including unsafe wiring, severe damp and vermin infestation.
- Renters in England paying £800m every month to live in unfit, sometimes dangerous, homes with few rights.
- One in ten homes in the West Midlands homes are below the decent homes standard and fuel poverty and overcrowding are significant problems – particularly for poorer families in Birmingham.
- Home ownership in the region is down to 57% from 63% ten years ago. The private rented sector has surged over the last ten years from 9% to 19%.
- Private sector rents have risen much faster than inflation too and are now on average over £700 per month, the highest outside of the South-East and the South-West.
Ian Austin said:
“Most landlords are decent people who look after their tenants, but there are too many dodgy landlords exploiting the vulnerable and ripping off the taxpayer by renting out unfit accommodation.
“I’ve met people paying well over £500 a month to rent homes with dangerous defects such as unsafe plugs or wiring, holes in the stairs or external walls, leaking skylights or heating systems that don’t work.
“Rogue landlords are not just exploiting their tenants but ripping off every taxpayer by making billions from rent and housing benefit letting out substandard homes.
“It is a complete disgrace and the government needs to crackdown urgently on these people as well as build decent affordable homes so that people are not forced to live in these appalling conditions.”
Transcript from Questions to the Department of Work and Pensions, 9.10.2017:
How much does the Secretary of State estimate is being paid out through housing benefit, or will be paid out under the housing-related costs of universal credit, for unfit accommodation in the private rented sector? All too often, I meet vulnerable tenants living in completely unfit accommodation. A huge amount of taxpayers’ money is being used to line the pockets of dodgy landlords. It is a complete and utter disgrace, and I would like to know what the Secretary of State’s estimate is of the size of the problem and what he is going to do about it.
Minister Caroline Dinenage:
We are always concerned about substandard rental accommodation, and we do keep in touch with the relevant bodies. This is something that is generally of concern to the Department, and it is something we will keep an eye on moving forward.