Communities and Local Government CommitteeFurther written evidence submitted by the Kirklees Private Landlords Association

Re; Submission by the Kirklees Private Landlords Association (Colne Valley Section) over the “unfair practices” now employed by the Valuations Office Agency (VOA) which is no longer an “impartial and independent service” as their former charter suggests.

1. Despite Local Kirklees/Colne Valley evidence of rental income given to the “Valuations Office Agency” this former “INDEPENDENTService (according to the letter from Welfare Minister in charge of reform “Lord Freud”––dated 17 November 2011) is still failing to expedite “true and accurate” property valuations as requested by the Kirklees Private Landlords Association (KPLA) mainly because of the anomalies now experienced and the methodologies currently used by this Public Service.

Moreover, the former “ rents service” (now the VOA) having HELD the valuations of x2 bedroom properties at £103.85p (within Kirklees––West Yorkshire since 2008–09) have now substantially lowered the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to £95.00p with seemingly a £8.85 per week decrease across the board! And for a x 3 bedroom property previously at a (LHA) rate of £121.15p now lowered to £114.23p a £6.92 per week decrease! This at a time when Private Landlord costs have risen sharply, triggering a nefarious situation that cannot be allowed to continue OR many Kirklees Property Landlords will go bankrupt as a direct result of these totally unfair Government policies that apparently for both the Landlord and the Tenant on Housing Benefits in 2012–13 is going to get considerably worse!

2. The use of the Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) valuations is seriously flawed when districts of Kirklees (West Yorkshire) like Sheepbridge; Deighton; Lower-houses; are given the same valuations as Honley; Holmfirth; Slaithwaite and the Colne/Holme Valleys. This in itself clearly “distorts” the local housing picture and gives tremendous inconsistencies in true and accurate property valuations! Indeed, the system used before 1 April 2011 was formulated on a “Post-code” basis, with for instance Insurance Companies and other businesses acquiring TRUE and ACCURATE assessments of the area by this extremely reliable methodology. Hence quite clearly the (BRMA) is “unfit for purpose” when evaluating local rents and of course the (HB) remuneration required to live say within the Colne Valley in comparison to other Huddersfield locations!

3. The formulae for calculating Housing Benefit (LHA) is both unfair; inaccurate; and highly contentious to both Private Landlords and Tenants alike. Indeed, “The Chartered Institute of Housing” in a recent Guardian article dated 1 January 2012 (enc) has defined the system of using the 30th percentile (from the former 50th) as totally unfair on the poor; the sick; and the vulnerable, yet the coalition Government only recently gave assurances to the Public that “FAIRNESS” would be at the heart of their Welfare reforms! Meanwhile, the evidence suggests that 800,000 homes may become inaccessible to Housing Benefit clients and the (VOA) has been given every opportunity to account for their role in this National disgrace before the matter is finally referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman should this become necessary.

4. Indeed, a letter dated 17 November 2011 from, “Lord Freud” (enc) makes a clear statement the (VOA) is an “INDEPENDENT” organization who set rents throughout all areas of the UK. Then WHY have the problems now surfaced (If the system used) to determine actual fair rents was not highly flawed due to Government intervention? Quite clearly UK Landlords are “highly critical” of the methodology used to determine these so-called fair rents and no longer consider the (VOA) service “fit for purpose” with many Landlords no longer accepting (HB) clients in their properties thus adding to the UK’s mounting housing shortage and increasing homelessness as depicted within the Guardian article (enc).

5. What mechanism have the (VOA) in place “to review” these (HB) rents on an annual basis and in-line with economic inflation? It is totally unfair to continue infinitum a policy of “pegged” non-adjustable rents whilst costs are constantly rising for Private Landlord’s throughout the UK, meanwhile Kirklees Council have just increased their rents within the Public sector! Whilst noting within Kirklees (West Yorkshire) the two to three bedroom rates of properties has not significantly increased since 2008–09! A fact that can be easily established (enc) whilst non (HB) clients have seen a marked increase in line with inflation etc etc. Indeed, the (KPLA) have been informed by Kirklees Council (HB) Senior Officers 19 March 2012 that the rates for (LHA) will be frozen April 2012 for a period of 12 months, thus increasing our Landlord anxieties even further!

In conclusion, from the antidotal evidence it appears “Northern” (LHA) rents have been apparently “subsidizing” the somewhat extravagant rents charged by inner London Landlords and the Home Counties. Hence the new cap of £400 per week on (LHA) allowances has been introduced throughout the UK, as the first step to control these enormous increases in Housing Benefit subsidies! Whilst the area of Kirklees April 2011 has apparently suffered the largest drop in the (BRMA) x2 bedroom LHA allowance throughout the entire UK!

Finally, housing organizations such as “Crisis & Shelter” have already confirmed there are “serious concerns” for the 800,000 families within the UK who will be affected by a Welfare system distributing (HB) awardments that are totally unfair to disadvantaged people who claim this allowance (see Guardian article enclosed dated 1 January 2012). Hence more and more UK Landlords are now ceasing renting to (LHA) Private Tenants, thus adding to the Countries Housing shortage! Indeed, many Private Landlords are actually selling up and calling in it a day––disgusted by the unfair Governmental restraints put on this Sector of the Private Housing Market.

January 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013