Landlords report surge in arrears among Universal Credit tenants

Almost two-thirds of landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit have experienced a big surge in rental arrears.

The finding comes as agents have been criticised for refusing to deal with applicants on Universal Credit, while yesterday it was announced that Universal Credit’s roll-out is to be delayed again.

The Residential Landlords Association found that 61% of members with tenants on housing benefit experienced rent shortfalls last year.

This is up from 27% in 2016.

The research, based on responses from more than 2,200 landlords, found that 53% with tenants on Universal Credit applied for direct payment to be made to them instead of to the tenant.

This process took two months on average, on top of the two months of arrears already accrued.

One fifth of landlords also reported that their mortgage lender prevented them from letting homes to tenants in receipt of benefits.

The RLA is calling for tenants to be able to choose to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to the landlord.

It is calling also for private landlords to be given more information about a tenant’s claim, such as when they receive payments, so that suitable rent payment schedules can be arranged. At present, this is provided to social sector landlords but not to those in the private sector, the RLA said.

David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “Our research shows clearly that further changes are urgently needed to Universal Credit.

“We welcome the constructive engagement we have had with the Government over these issues but more work is needed to give landlords the confidence they need to rent to those on Universal Credit.

“A major start would be to give tenants the right to choose to have payments paid directly to their landlord. This would empower tenants to decide what is best for them rather than being told by the Government.”


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  1. Rayb92

    Pity shelter won’t be interested in hearing this whilst they campaign for landlords and agents to house them despite clear adverse risk

    1. michael138

      I agree. I have not noticed any interest from Shelter in assisting Landlords if tenants on housing benefit fail to pay the rent and the landlord has to apply to the court to get them out and is left two or more thousand pounds  out of pocket.

      If Shelter are so keen to try and “shame” agents who do not accept these sort of tenants why cannot they take some financial responsibility when it all goes wrong.

  2. Will

    I ask a few major questions.  Why are private landlords expected to act as social workers? Why are landlords taking on these unpaid tasks? It is not their job.  These are not problems landlords should be involved with at the same time landlords are being bashed and denounced by public authorities, certain so called charities and government every day with unrelenting legislation intent on making their lives more difficult.

  3. CountryLass

    The worst thing is, Universal Credit should be easier and better! The theory behind it, as far as I understand it, is that it gets all of the different government benefit departments to work together and have one payment, like a salary going in each month.

    But once the red tape and politicians get involved it was always going to be a dismal failure…

  4. Lil Bandit

    I imagine Shelter will cover their ears jump up and down and ignore this!

  5. GeorgeHammond78

    Almost two-thirds of landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit have experienced a big surge in rental arrears’.

    In related news the DSS has been renamed NSS (the last ‘S’ is Sherlock)


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