Social Landlords and Investors Facing Universal Credit Difficulties

Social landlords are continuing to face difficulties relating to the roll out of Universal Credit, according to a new report.

The Northern Housing Consortium report ‘Impact of Universal Credit – The Frontline Perspective’ summarises a year long study of Universal Credit, investigating its impact across 85 member organisations and their tenants in the North of England. The results recorded a significant impact on landlords, with 92 per cent reporting that their staff were spending a greater period of time supporting people through the Universal Credit process than the Housing Benefit process. One participant in the research had noted a 90 per cent increase in calls from customers.

95 per cent of participants also confirmed that their tenants were experiencing difficulty in meeting housing costs. The NHC therefore has welcomed the extension of Housing Benefit which was recently announced. It is hoped that this will have a significant beneficial impact on the level of arrears.

A significant issue was also noted with the communication between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and tenants, with 89 per cent of responding members reporting this.

However, the main concern is that evictions due to rent arrears had increased from 18 per cent to 27 per cent during the rollout of Universal Credit. By the end of the study, all participants had been made aware of foodbank use due to this. Tenant health issues also had worsened as a result of the new system, with an increase in stress and anxiety, as well as many suffering from cold and damp after failing to heat their homes.

The problem also stretches further than purely in the social housing sector, with increasing numbers of private landlords expressing that they will no longer let to tenants on Universal Credit. This is due to concern about rent arrears.

Chief Executive at NHC, Jo Boaden, said: “The impact of UC on social landlords and their tenants is deeply concerning. The new system poses real challenges around rent collection and puts severe pressure on landlord resources in already challenging times. Worryingly, the situation could get worse for tenants as some face additional hardship over the Christmas period. Whilst we support the principle of simplifying the benefits system, there is clearly still work to be done to ensure it runs smoothly.’

He continued: ‘Many of the messages on UC from the Autumn Budget were encouraging, and we urge the Government to continue to listen to housing providers in the sector, who offer security and support to many of society’s most vulnerable people. The NHC and our members have worked closely with the DWP throughout the process and will continue to do this over the coming months.’

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