PROPERTY landlords have spoken out over fears homelessness in South Tyneside can “only get worse”.
Colin Campbell, executive officer with South Tyneside Landlords Association, says there has been “mayhem” in the private rented sector since a change in the law in 2009.
That led to housing benefit payments being paid into tenants’ bank accounts – instead of directly to landlords.
Mr Campbell says the council faces a similar situation when Universal Credit comes in at the end of this year.
That will result in rent benefits being paid to council tenants – raising concerns over a massive rise in rent arrears, loss of authority finance and the potential for more people to lose their homes.
Mr Campbell said: “Ever since Labour changed the housing benefit law in 2009, when tenants were given their rent, it has been mayhem.
“Myself and hundreds of other landlords now expect to lose the first housing benefit payment at least, which could be for a few hundred pounds or be over a £1,000.
“The tenant just shrugs and said ‘it’s not a crime’. Then the landlord gives the tenant notice to quit and the tenant becomes homeless.
“Unless there is a change in benefit payments, and landlords can be paid the rent directly, including the council, evictions will increase and private landlords will not re-house debtors, so where will they go?”
Another South Tyneside landlord, Gary Wastell, said the way housing benefit was administered added to the problem.
He explained: “Benefit offices are supposed to make the first cheque payable to the landlord and sent to the tenant’s address.
“But they send it out payable to the tenant and, when challenged, say there has been an oversight.
“The landlord is always out of pocket. The system has to change.”