A LANDLORD who lost thousands claims he cannot recover the benefit money pocketed by dishonest tenants.
The Colne Valley landlord says he has been ripped-off for more than £4,000 by social housing tenants.
He said several tenants were pocketing their housing benefits rather than using it to pay their rent and then fleeing.
But Mike (not his real name) said when he attempted to recover his losses, the Benefits Agency (BA) said they could not reimburse him and there was nothing they could do to help him.
The recently-introduced Local Housing Allowance, replacing a previous form of Housing Benefit, is not normally paid directly to landlords. It is paid to the tenant, who should use it to pay the rent.
Mike says BA is fully aware of tenants pocketing their benefits, a situation he says is echoed across the country.
Mike contacted the police, but they, he said, couldn’t intervene unless the Benefits Agency made a complaint.
He contacted his MP Kali Mountford and benefits under-secretary Kitty Usher MP, but both, he says, referred him back to BA.
He says: “As soon as a tenant misses their first payment you’re supposed to contact BA and they say there’s nothing they can do.
“They still pay money to the tenant even though they know the tenant is defrauding the system and pocketing the money. If the tenant doesn’t pass money on to the landlord there’s no system to recover the money and no sanctions on defrauding tenants.
“All the agencies set up to help tenants are diametrically opposed to the landlord. They’re just designed to keep tenants in the accommodation as long as possible.
“It seems that tenants are poor victims and landlords are big, bad, rich, nasty people. That’s the culture in the system.
“Tenants know their rights. All over the place they’re ripping off the system and the system is doing nothing to stop it.”
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions, which manages BA, said: “One of the key features of Local Housing Allowance is that where possible the benefit will be paid to the customer, so that they can take more personal responsibility for their housing, helping to prepare for when they move into work.
“Customers have responded extremely well to the responsibility of managing their rent payments; evidence has shown they regard paying rent as a priority.
“But, we accept it is not possible in every case to make payments direct to the tenant. There is a comprehensive package of safeguards to deal with problems that may arise.
“We would encourage landlords to contact their local authority if payments are being missed so they can investigate and take appropriate action.”