NRLA Chief Executive Ben Beadle on why Government plans to force landlords to hand over cash are unnecessary and could create needless conflict between landlords and tenants.
The cost-of-living crisis is being felt by all sectors of society, with energy costs rising and food and fuel bills soaring.
But the news this week that the Government plans to bring in new legislation to force landlords to pass on the �400 energy rebate to those tenants with bills bundled in with rent is wholly unnecessary.
By planning to legislate on this issue the Government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, not least as the first of the rebate payments have yet to be made.
The proposals are premature and are demonising landlords. It sends a dangerous and misleading message that landlords cannot be trusted to do the right thing, creating needless fear and anxiety for tenants.
While the support is welcome, the reality is that one-off pots of money like this cannot compensate for the fact that the benefits system is systematically failing to protect the most vulnerable tenants. At a time when households finances are being squeezed, it makes no sense to have frozen housing benefit rates.
An estimated 585,000 householders have bills bundled in with their rent, around 13 per cent of all private renters and not all landlords have increased rents to reflect the higher bills expected to hit doormats in October.
While the Government announced the 80% rise in energy prices for consumers would not go ahead as planned on October 1, prices are still set to rise, nearly doubling from last winter.
Government measures to mitigate the impact of the changes include the �400 discount on energy bills, which will be paid in six monthly instalments between October and March.
As landlords whose tenants have energy costs bundled in with rent are the bill payers, the cash will be paid to them. The new legislation will force landlords to hand that cash over, even if they haven'�t increased rents to cover rising bills.
The rebate is specifically designed to cover increased energy costs, and if the landlord is footing these bills and has not increased the rent to cover them, they should be entitled to support, as would any other bill payer.
Of course, where rents have been increased in line with the original proposed price cap then landlords should be passing on the saving to their tenants.
It'�s important to remember that targeted support will still be available for the most vulnerable tenants, to help with their bills.
We have contacted ministers to object to the proposals. In the meantime we would encourage landlords to get in contact with their tenants to discuss their concerns about energy bills and discuss ways in which they may be able to reduce their energy usage, or claim any additional support they might be entitled to.
We would also advise landlords and tenants to supply meter readings to their energy suppliers on September 30, to ensure all gas and electricity used up to and including that date is billed at the cheaper rate before the new charges come in on October 1.