Universal Credit Leading to Landlord Rent Arrears

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The Universal Credit benefit system is causing tenants to fall into rent arrears with their landlord as the system continues to fail.

According to the latest research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), over half (54 per cent) of private landlords who have let to tenants on universal credit in the past 12 months have seen them fall into rent arrears.

Of the landlords that have experienced rent arrears, 82 per cent said that the rent arrears only began after a new claim for universal credit or after a tenant had been moved onto the credit from housing benefit.

A further 68 per cent of landlords argued that there was a shortfall between the cost of rent and the amount paid in universal credit, contributing to the rent arrears problem.

Over a third (36 per cent) of the landlords researched by the RLA also said that they had buy to let mortgage conditions which prevent them from renting to benefit claimants.

Private landlords renting to universal credit claimants can currently apply to have the housing element paid directly to themselves when a tenant has reached two months of rent arrears, known as an alternative payment arrangement (APA).

However, the RLA is arguing that more should be done by the government to prevent tenants from falling into rent arrears in the first place and has made recommendations including ending the five-week waiting period to receive the first universal credit payment.

Policy director at the RLA, David Smith, said: ‘Today’s research shows the stark challenges the government still has in ensuring universal credit works for tenants and landlords.

‘The system only provides extra support once tenants are in rent arrears. Instead, more should be done to prevent tenants falling behind with their rent in the first place.

‘Only then will landlords have the confidence that they need that tenants being on universal credit does not pose a financial risk that they are unable to shoulder.

‘Without such changes, benefit claimants will struggle to find the homes to rent they need.’

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