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Landlords back merger plans

Landlords have backed plans for two of the sector’s largest representative bodies to merge to provide a stronger voice for the private rented sector.

Members of the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have voted for the two organisations to unite to form the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

The new organisation will have a membership of more than 80,000 landlords making it by far the largest organisation in the sector. Its members will own and manage half a million properties, about 10% of the private rented sector. It will officially launch on 01 January 2020.

‘We are delighted that landlords have backed plans for a new, stronger body to represent them and their interests. The new organisation will have a more powerful voice to support landlords, provide services to them and to lobby government,’ said the two Chairs, Alan Ward of the RLA and Adrian Jeakings of the NLA in a joint statement.

‘Both organisations will now move forward together to appoint a new Chair and Directors for the NRLA. We will be seeking candidates internally and externally and we would welcome expressions of interest from members for these posts,’ they added.

Meanwhile, responding to a Smith Institute report commissioned by Southwark Council which finds that direct payment of benefit to landlords contributed most to reductions in rent arrears, the RLA says that this supports its position that tenants in receipt of Universal Credit should have the right to choose whether the housing element is paid directly to their landlord.

Southwark Council was one of the first areas of the country to see Universal Credit full service roll out. Its rolling reports on the impact of this on housing have found that there is a noticeable decrease in the levels of arrears for those claiming UC in 2018 compared with those transitioning to UC in 2016.

The report states that ‘it is the earlier and increased use of Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs), rather than other reforms, which have contributed most to reductions in arrears levels observed’.

On average, each person in the 2016 group was six weeks in arrears at the end of the period compared with just under two weeks for the 2018 group.

‘Originally designed to apply to a handful of cases, more than 40% of Southwark tenants claiming UC have now entered into APAs with the council to help manage their finances”.
Landlords may apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement but only after two months of rent arrears have built up,’ the report adds.

‘Our own research finds that over half of landlords with tenants on Universal Credit have seen them fall into rent arrears in the last year,’ said David Smith, RLA policy director.

‘This report demonstrates that arrears are lower under direct payments to landlords and supports our call for the Government to give all tenants on Universal Credit the ability to choose to have the housing element paid directly to their landlord. Many tenants feel more comfortable with managing their finances knowing that their rent is paid and it should be up to them to be free to make that decision,’ he added.