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OFFICERS NOT READY FOR REFERENCE RENT RULES

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Housing benefit officers will not be equipped to implement new benefit regulations when they are introduced in Octo...
Housing benefit officers will not be equipped to implement new benefit regulations when they are introduced in October, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The regulations, outlined in the Budget, would restrict housing benefit for rents which exceed an average local 'reference rent', with the council paying half the excess.

Under the changes local authorities will have a limited fund from which to pay discretionary excess rents for vulnerable tenants.

John Perry of the CIH warned there are not enough trained officers to cope with 'the significant increase in discretionary decisions under the new system'.

Mr Perry said councils would need to install new software to deal with the average 'reference rent' calculations required before each submission for housing benefit. The housing-associations-as-managing-agents initiative, heralded by the DoE, could be jeopardised under the reference rents system.

HAMA schemes, with rents at market prices to cover running costs and provide incentives for private landlords, will be under-represented in the calculations for average council rents.

The CIH suggested that HAMAs be excluded from the new regulations, which are being reviewed by the Social Security Advisory Committee and will go through Parliament in June.

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