Some of Britain’s wealthiest private landlords are being paid millions of pounds each from the taxpayer in housing benefit, at a time when social housing is being cut, new figures show.
Councils across Britain have disclosed the landlords who receive the largest sums in housing benefit, following Freedom of Information requests from the GMB union.
The figures show that Ukip’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous is among the biggest landlord recipients of housing benefit, having received £826,395 in the last tax year, putting him 10th on the housing benefit rich list.
Mohammed Tanveer Taj in Watford came out as the landlord making the most from housing benefit, with an income of more than £3.2m. He did not respond when approached for comment.
Second on the list was an estate agency while third was the King family, who run Thorney Bay Park, a caravan site in Canvey Island, Essex, who recieved £1,924,226. The site featured in a Panorama programme last week after families said the caravans were “like an igloo” in winter and local councillors dubbed them unsuitable for year-round use. The owners insist the site is suitable for living in all year. Holly King said: “Thorney Bay Park help Castle Point Borough Council accommodate individuals and families who are on housing benefits that they did not have homes for. We currently house 300 tenants who might otherwise be homeless.”
Mr Charalambous, who has said migrants are a “massive factor in the overcrowding of social housing”, has previously acknowledged that many of his tenants are migrants.
Private rented accommodation accounts for around 4.2 million households – and in more than a third of these, the rent is paid in part or in full by the state. Private landlords were paid a total of £9.2bn in housing benefit in 2013-14.
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system. We see taxpayers’ cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2bn paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.”
The sixth-biggest housing benefit private landlord – and the leader in Scotland – was the City Bellgrove hotel. Its owners, Ron Barr and Kenneth Gray, received £1,508,813 in housing benefit last year for the hotel, which they bought for just £65,000.
It houses up to 160 men in east Glasgow, many of whom have drug and alcohol problems. An investigation by the Daily Record last year found squalid conditions, including pools of vomit left on the floor of the windowless TV room and cannabis smoke in the air.
Joe McKee, the hotel’s manager, said the Record’s “allegations aren’t true” but that the owners would not comment on them. “They’ve been getting this in the neck for the last 12, 13 years,” he said.
A Ukip spokesman said: “Landlords like Andrew Charalambous who accept housing benefit tenants at a time when there is extremely high demand for rental properties are in fact offering a valuable community service. Mr Charalambous categorically does not believe that immigrants should not receive housing or other benefits.”
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