18-21 year olds to lose Universal Credit

Landlords seem to be always at the wrong end of the line. For years, they responded to the calls from local authorities to convert accommodation with shared facilities into self-contained properties, to be then told from October 1996 that single people aged under 25 would only receive the shared accommodation rate because they didn’t need private facilities.


Some argued that in this day and age, a young man of 23 or 24 could have fathered children and want some access, which was not possible where toilets and kitchens were shared. Landlords found that their bedsits with bathrooms and kitchens would only attract the same rate as a room without these facilities, if the tenant was under 25. Some landlords refused to rent to this age group. 

This was bad enough, but the shock and horror of this was nothing compared to when from 1st January 2012, single room rents for those aged 25 to 34 were introduced. Landlords could not let decent, self-contained apartments to those who were under 35 if they were not working. 

Another thing for landlords to cope with now is that 18 to 21 year olds would not receive Universal Credit from April 2017. This is not news as it was announced a while back, but landlords now need to be taking notice as the implementation time is coming near.

The intention is clear – that young people should remain in the parental home until they are in stable employment, but this is not always possible. Even young working tenants may experience difficulties in obtaining accommodation – with zero hours contracts and flexible working, their employment may not provide a guarantee that they will be able to pay the rent agreed upon at the start of the tenancy. It may be those same circumstances that have caused a family rift – the family losing benefit because of the presence of a working child but he is not able to cover the benefits his family have lost.

Many landlords are very sympathetic to their tenants; some will want to help the young person who arrives in a desperate plight, but unless his circumstances are such that he is included in one of the few exemption categories, the rent will only be paid at the single room rent rate, which is always considerably less than is payable for a bed-roomed accommodation for the over 35’s.  Couples are exempt from the single room rent so whilst not necessarily a good thing, a couple sharing will receive the full rent.  

Few people will argue that the numbers of the benefit dependent needs to be reduced, as does the bill for the housing element of Universal Credit, but this seems a drastic and very painful way of doing it. So many young people will be in homes with a step-parent who, whilst prepared to offer support to a child believe there is no responsibility on them to provide a home once the child reaches working age.

Whether there will be a softening of attitude when all children are expected to remain in school or training until they are 18 remains to be seen, but young people without income could find themselves drawn into crime, victims of domestic violence or homeless and sleeping on the streets.

Landlords must not let their businesses suffer because of a surfeit of sympathy.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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