NEWS
09/01/2018 10:01 GMT

Landlords Reveal The Reality Of Renting To Universal Credit Claimants

One landlord says 70% of his tenants on Universal Credit struggle to pay rent on time.

Landlords have spoken of their dismay at problems caused by Universal Credit as its revealed 73% are still hesitant to rent to those enrolled on the flagship programme.

Research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) reveals a majority of its members are still concerned over whether those receiving the new monthly benefit payments can keep up with costs.

Under previous so-called legacy benefits, rent was paid directly to landlords by the government.

Peter Nicholls / Reuters
Landlords renting to those on Universal Credit have felt the need to speak out on behalf of hard-hit tenants

It comes as property barons across the UK have said they are worried about tenants falling behind with rent and racking up debt. 

One Suffolk landlord claims more than seven out of 10 of his Universal Credit tenants are struggling to pay rent in full and on time.

Brandon Taylor rents homes to around 130 Universal Credit claimants in around Lowestoft and says that, in one case, a tenant who was on Universal Credit accrued £2,848 in rent arrears.

Where tenants accrue two months or more of rent arrears, landlords can apply for payments to be made directly to them, known as Alternative Payment Arrangements.

But when he has applied for this, Taylor found requests to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been ignored.

Meanwhile in the West Midlands, Linda Hazelwood says one of her Universal Credit tenants is languishing in arrears to the tune of £1,000 and cannot afford to pay the rent on time each month.

Another tenant has accrued £900 of debt as a result of delays.

Hazelwood has spoken on the need to help those without access to computers to manage their claims.

‘Beg, steal or borrow’

In the North East, Sue Thompson and her husband Phil say 90% of their tenants are in receipt of benefits, many of whom are on Universal Credit.

Thompson says that, although the Government has slightly reduced the time between applying and receiving Universal Credit, paying tenants in arrears means that many are forced to “beg, steal or borrow” to keep going. 

She warns that in such cases a tenants’ first payment is then swallowed up by repaying those debts often with high levels of interest or late fees with the vicious cycle of rent arrears starting all over again.

A debate is scheduled in the House of Commons on Tuesday to discuss the impact of Universal Credit on those who rent properties.

The flagship benefit reform, introduced by the coalition government and which will roll out across Britain by 2022, has been blamed for a rise in food bank use and rocketing personal debt.

RLA Vice Chair, Chris Town, said: “We welcome [the] debate and hope that MPs from all parties will agree that a few pragmatic changes to the way Universal Credit is delivered will lead to considerable improvements for both tenants and landlords.

“The RLA will continue to work with all sides to secure the benefit system we all want – one that is easy to understand, fair to all, supports the vulnerable and ensures the security of a home for all claimants.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Landlords can now apply to have rent paid directly to them if their tenants are more than two months in arrears.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money but we are increasing support to help people who need it to stay on top of their payments. From April, people in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive two weeks’ rent when they move onto Universal Credit.”