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Categories: government and politics | prs

The government’s Valuation Office Agency is urging landlords to share rental data, so that it can be used to help set benefits levels for housing.

The data is needed by 30th September 2022, at which point there is a cut-off for the VOA’s ‘list of rents’ being produced.

What kind of data are the VOA requesting from landlords?

The submission of data is voluntary. The data requested includes:

Self-contained properties

  • Address
  • Rental amount
  • Whether water rates are included or not
  • Property type
  • Whether the property is furnished or unfurnished
  • Number of living rooms
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Type of tenancy
  • Tenancy start or renewal date

A similar request for information is made for rooms to rent.

Data protection

The VOA have stated that:

“Individual properties and the source of the rental information remain confidential. Data is held on a secure database. VOA Rent Officers are registered with the Information Commissioner and comply with the Data Protection Act 1998”

Why is the data needed now?

To date the VOA has been receiving this data from landlords (according to the agency 500,000 records are supplied each year), but renewed steps are being taken to gather more data.

The Department for Work and Pensions uses Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to calculate the amount of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit a claimant should receive to help pay their rent.

The LHA was frozen in cash terms in 2016. It was temporarily restored to the cheapest 30th percentile of rents in a local area, during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. It has subsequently been frozen again.

There has been much campaigning on the matter, as the benefit is not covering the cost of rents, so more data which backs this message up would likely help build a better picture of the extent of the problem.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) have themselves flagged that over 50% of tenants, who use Universal Credit to pay their rent, find their rent bill not being covered by the benefit.

Landlords can share their rental data by downloading an Excel template from this page on the government website, which should be sent via the email address enclosed in the document to the VOA.