Landlords have called on the Government to halt the roll out of Universal Credit until urgent improvements are made to tackle the problems faced by the private rented sector.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA)'s senior policy officer Natalie Williamson asked the Work and Pensions Select Committee to consider how arrears continue to escalate because direct payments aren't being processed quickly enough.

With the government set to speed up the roll out of Universal Credit across the country from next month, the RLA has warned of 'a ticking time bomb'.

The association wants measures introduced to cut the seven-week waiting period that claimants currently face before they can begin to receive Universal Credit payments.

It also wants the government to to make it easier and quicker for payments to be made directly to the landlord where tenant arrears are building up.

A spokesperson said: "The RLA stressed the playing field between PRS landlords and social landlords needs to be fairer, with better access to information around tenants’ claims and applying for direct payments needed for PRS landlords.

"This could include developing a portal for private landlords, similar to that available to the social housing sector.

"The association also suggested developing a trusted status model for the PRS, so that private landlords can also see which tenants may benefit from direct payments."

The RLA said that overall there needs to be more done by DWP to give landlords in the PRS more confidence that the system can work for them.

The committee was told that rent arrears had risen in just a year from 27 per cent in 2016 to 38 per cent in 2017, and the average amount owed in rent arrears by Universal Credit tenants to private landlords is now £1,150.

Ms Williamson warned that ultimately PRS landlords will no longer rent to tenants on benefits if the system isn’t improved urgently.

The first evidence session for the newly reformed committee, held at Portcullis House, also heard evidence from representatives of Liverpool City Council, Plymouth Community Homes, Your Homes Newcastle and Southwark Council as well as Citizens Advice, Wirral Foodbank and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.

Landlords talk about some of the challenges ahead- including universal credit.