GOVERNMENT chiefs have agreed to back West Devon Borough councillors in their bid to crack down on unscrupulous landlords by closing a benefits loophole.

Parliamentary under-secretary for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, told the council, the first authority in the country to flag up the scam, that the Government will take action over landlords who charge high rent for poor accommodation.

Council leader Neil Jory said: ‘I am pleased that they have listened to our concerns and have responded with action. This is a really positive step forward.”

Mr Hughes said in Parliament: ‘We are aware of a minority of landlords who charge high rents for poor quality accommodation and little or no support. I wish to inform the House of the Government’s intention to bring forward measures to put an end to unscrupulous landlords exploiting some of the most vulnerable in our society.’

The measures include minimum standards for the support provided to residents, to ensure they receive good quality support, new powers for local authorities in England to better manage their local supported housing market and ensure nobody falls through the cracks and changes to Housing Benefit regulations to seek to define care, support and supervision to improve quality across all specified supported housing provision.

Mr Hughes said: ‘Local authorities have been able to crack down on rogue landlords and ensure supported housing is providing adequate, tailored support and good-quality accommodation for its residents. This work is critical to maintain scrutiny of rogue providers while Government works to develop and implement longer-term measures.’

Sir Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon said: ‘West Devon Borough Council was the first council to raise the issue anywhere in the country and having drawn it to my attention, this abusive practice will no longer be able to milk the public purse.’

The borough council raised concerns that the present system was open to abuse where exempt accommodation involved an investment fund. They believed that some of this type of accommodation was being set up to maximise the amount of housing benefit that could be claimed by ensuring that it falls outside of the usual caps placed on housing benefit claims.

Borough council members have been invited to attend Parliament to give evidence to an inquiry into exempt accommodation by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.