Direct payment offered to landlords in exchange for regulation

Housing benefit could be paid direct to private landlords in return for greater regulation of the sector, under proposals published by the Labour Party.

In a paper published today, Private rented housing: improving standards for all, the party sets out a range of ideas that could be implemented if it was in power.

It suggests there should be a national register of private landlords, a new property standard encompassing tenancy and housing conditions, and stronger sanctions for bad landlords.

In return it says the sector would be offered ‘incentives that will form part of a “something for something” deal for landlords’.

Options could include moving people from local housing registers into the sector, to reduce voids, an ‘improved’ eviction process for anti-social tenants, and direct payment of housing benefit to landlords.

Under current rules housing benefit is already paid direct to landlords in many cases, however the introduction of the government’s flagship welfare reform policy – universal credit – will change this.

Universal credit will combine a range of benefits into a single monthly payment that will go straight to the tenant. This has raised concerns among private and public sector landlords about increasing levels of rent arrears.

Labour said the private sector is increasingly important, and its proposals would drive up the quality of homes.

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: ‘We want to see all families enjoying a decent home, at a price they can afford. While the majority of landlords are responsible, there can be no place in future for homes that are damp, cold and unfit to bring children up, holding them back at school.

‘That’s why we’re setting out our proposals so the sector works for all.’