Government plans to legislate that buy-to-let owners must pass on £400 discounts to tenants who have bills included in their rent were slammed as “demonising landlords”, by the National Residential Landlords Association.
The move comes after housing group Shelter said tenants were at the “mercy” of landlords passing on this support, first announced by then chancellor Rishi Sunak in May, who said households would receive the autumn payment to help with energy bills projected to more than double over the coming 12 months.
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said last month: “There’s no specific legal obligation for landlords to pass on this support but they aren’t allowed to overcharge tenants for the energy they’ve used or make a profit on it. This could be the case if they pocket the government support and continue to charge the same rate for utilities.”
But yesterday the new administration under Prime Minister Liz Truss updated the Energy Bills Support Scheme that covers the payment due to begin on 1 October.
It said: “Additional funding will be made available so that £400 payments will be extended to include people such as park home residents and those tenants whose landlords pay for their energy via a commercial contract.”
“The government will introduce legislation to make sure landlords pass the EBSS discount on to tenants who pay all-inclusive bills.”
However, the NRLA maintains the government’s move to introduce new laws on the payment even before the support has begun will only spread alarm among renters.
National Residential Landlords Association policy director Chris Norris says: “Given payments under the support scheme have not begun to be made, the government’s plans to legislate are premature and are demonising landlords unnecessarily.
“It sends a dangerous and misleading message that landlords cannot be trusted to do the right thing, creating needless fear and anxiety for tenants.
“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.”