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More landlords refuse Universal Credit claimants

Thursday 19 October 2017

Landlords across the UK are turning away people who claim Universal Credit, new research carried out by Politics.co.uk has revealed.

Sixty-nine per cent of the 100 estate agents surveyed said they had no landlords currently on their books who would accept Universal Credit claimants.

In some of the areas  where the new benefit has been rolled out,  only 10 per cent of estate agents had any properties available to people receiving Universal Credit.

The head of policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), Chris Norris said: "While the NLA supports the concepts behind Universal Credit, it is clearly divorced from the realities of many tenants' lives.

"Problems with its implementation and caps to housing benefit mean that many landlords now view letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or Universal Credit as high risk, because they simply do not have the confidence that rent will be paid to them on time."

“We know landlords are struggling to see how Universal Credit claimants can continue to be part of their businesses,” adds Alex Huntley, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance. “And we know how concerned some of our landlords are that existing, reliable, long-term tenants are suddenly finding themselves falling short because of the new system.”

Indeed, MPs have been debating the ongoing rollout of Universal Credit amid fears it will impoverish those forced to claim it. And yesterday a Labour-led vote to pause the rollout was passed after Conservative MPs abstained on Wednesday.

Theresa May initially dismissed calls for a pause in the national introduction of the scheme to address problems with the system.

Yet the evidence shows that one in five people applying for the benefit have waited longer than six weeks for their first payment - and research from Citizen's Advice shows that more than half of claimants the organisation has helped have been forced to borrow money while they wait. 

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "Tenants who do not receive their benefit in time to pay their rent are put at risk of eviction and homelessness. Delays mean many landlords in the private sector are now refusing tenants who are on UC - severely limiting their housing options.

"With half of those in rent arrears reporting that they went into debt after claiming Universal Credit, it's clear the government's flagship social security programme is failing. The social security system is meant to protect people from debt and arrears, not exacerbate their situation."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "It's wrong to treat a claimant differently because they are on Universal Credit rather than housing benefit. Universal Credit gives people control over their finances, and paying their own rent is an important part of this – just like someone in work would do.

"We have worked closely with landlords to make sure the right safeguards are in place for them and their tenants. The majority of people are comfortable managing their money but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords."

Simple’s Alex Huntly continues: “Clearly the system is not working for either landlords or tenants - and denying the problems exist isn’t helping anyone. We’re delighted to see the rollout of Universal Credit has now been paused. The fact is that the private sector has an important role to play in social housing, and continuing regardless could have caused lasting damage to the market - and ultimately to the lives of some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.”
 

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