Housing benefit claimants refused tenancies as universal credit baffles landlords
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Universal Credit and also in Central Government, Housing
Standard housing pictureImage: Housing via Shutterstock
The government's flagship shake-up of the welfare system is forcing almost 50% of the country's large landlords to reduce the number of housing benefit claimants they let to, research has revealed.
According to the British Property Federation, 4 in 10 larger private landlords are concerned about the confusion surrounding how rent arrears will be dealt with under universal credit.
The BPF has warned that landlord groups, NGOs and the government should all act to reduce the uncertainty of the impact of UC after it found that 39% of landlords with more than 10 properties were intending to reduce the number of properties they let to those on housing benefit, when the change comes in.
Though UC has apparently been designed to offer greater protection to landlords from rent arrears, the BPF has said its survey found that many letters do not believe it will.
The BPF is now calling for:
• Greater dialogue between landlords, tenants, NGOs and government – at a local and national level – to clearly explain the implications of UC.
• For the Department for Work and Pensions to set out how it will inform private landlords when a tenant has a change of circumstances that affects their housing benefit.
• For the government to do all it can to ensure tenants do not fall into arrears, including allowing them to choose direct payment from the outset if they are worried about managing their finances, as recommended by the DWP select committee.
The research found that whereas landlords with experience of housing benefit tenants understood that their tenants required greater levels of support, those landlords who are unfamiliar with the process are less likely to feel confident that their rental income is secure, and are therefore less likely to let to a housing benefit tenant.
Ian Fletcher, BPF director of policy (real estate), said: “We urge DWP to implement alongside Universal Credit, a system to inform private landlords when a tenant has a change of circumstances that affects their housing benefit. This basic step will provide reassurance to a landlord and reduce any confusion regarding delayed payments or applications for alternative payment arrangements.
“The challenges of housing supply are long term issues that will inevitably see the private rented sector continue to be relied upon to house welfare recipients. Universal credit is the most radical change to affect the payment of benefit in several generations and if private landlords do not feel confident they are going to receive rental income they will vote with their feet and not engage with it.”