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49% of those it helps with Universal Credit are in rent arrears

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The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has joined the fray in widespread calls for reforms of the system of Universal Credit, according to a posting dated the 6th of February 2019. 

The RLA referenced the current campaign by Citizens Advice, arguing why things must change in the way Universal Credit is applied, and pointed to the charity’s findings that, of all the people it tries to help with Universal Credit, 49% have fallen into rent arrears.

The findings by Citizens Advice chime with the RLA’s own research which shows that 61% of landlords with tenants in receipt of Universal Credit have experienced arrears in the payment of rent in the past year. This represents an increase of 38% in 2018, up from 27% the year before. 

Yet all this at a time when average rents are rising at a much slower rate than overall inflation. 

The RLA has responded to the latest findings by insisting that:

  • systems should be made easier for tenants to elect to have the housing element of their Universal Credit benefits paid directly to their landlord from the very beginning of their claim; and 
  • the cap on housing benefits receivable under Universal Credit rules needs to be lifted. 

Both contribute to the rising incidence of rent arrears, says the RLA. 

It remains to be seen whether the introduction of a new online system enabling landlords to receive the housing benefit element of Universal Credit – which we reported last month – will improve the current state of affairs and ultimately lead to a reduction in rent arrears.