Campaigns Research Welfare Reform and Homelessness

RLA quoted in Commons Library Universal Credit paper

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

RLA research and campaigns work has been cited in a note for MPs ahead of next week’s debate on the PRS and Universal Credit.

The note quotes extensively from the RLA’s report on the impact of Universal Credit, including links to evidence supplied to the government and members’ experiences.

The association submitted updated written evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry on Universal Credit in September 2017, containing the headline results of a survey of RLA members conducted in August 2017.

The research – quoted in the note for MPs – found:

  • In the past 12 months 38% of landlords have experienced UC tenants going into rent arrears.
  • The median amount owed in rent arrears by UC tenants was £1,150.
  • In the past 12 months 29% of landlords had evicted a tenant who was in receipt of housing benefits or UC and the main reason for regaining possession of the property was rent arrears (64% of landlords).
  • Only 13% of landlords were willing to let properties to tenants on UC.
  • 63% of landlords reported the lack of direct benefits or UC to the landlord and made them less likely to rent to tenants on UC.
  • For those landlords who had requested a landlord managed payment 44% of them found the application process difficult.
  • Of those landlords who had contacted the DWP for assistance with their UC tenant 45% had found them either unhelpful or very unhelpful.

The note also includes the RLAs demands on Universal Credit, detailed in its September 2017 submission to the Committee.

In it the RLA calls for the Government to:

  • Introduce Tenant Choice – the right for a tenant to elect to have UC paid direct to their landlord.
  • Permit arrears to follow a tenant so that if a tenant receiving UC leaves a property owing rent arrears then these can be recouped from subsequent benefit payments.
  • Improve data sharing between DWP and landlords where the tenant consents or without the need for consent where it is in the claimant’s interests. This includes information about the progress of applications for direct payment to the landlord. Standing consents should be permitted for the duration of a claim for housing costs for a particular property; not just for “a particular piece of business”.
  • DWP should send landlords proper written notifications of their decisions which affect the landlord.
  • Improve the arrangements when a claimant’s housing benefits is switched to UC.
  • Provide a standardised script for Job Centre interviews around rental payment issues, and improve work coaches’ knowledge and training relating to housing costs issues.
  • Improve the availability of advance payments of UC.
  • Change the rules so that a history of rent arrears becomes a Tier 1 reason for direct payment of housing costs to landlords.
  • Improve the arrangements for dealing with landlords’ applications for alternative payment arrangements, i.e. for housing costs to be paid direct to the landlord where there are arrears (APAs). This includes improving and streamlining procedures for landlords when they submit applications.
  • Suspend paying UC housing costs pending investigations of claims by landlords for direct payment to them when there are arrears. This should be done automatically as soon as the application form itself is received, even though DWP may be waiting for further information.
  • Make sure that landlords are always told if direct payment to the landlord is to cease for any reason.
  • Introduce a trusted person scheme for private landlords.
  • Improve ways in which landlords can communicate direct with DWP.
  • Continue to allow the landlords to pursue complaints about DWP service under the DWP Complaints Procedure. Compensation should be payable where landlords suffer financial losses as a result of mal-administration by DWP. DWP should not hide behind the argument that this is a simple contract dispute; nor expect landlords to waste money pursuing fruitless claims against tenants for rent arrears in this situation.
  • Set up a specific UC complaints procedure, including appropriate provisions for landlords to complain. Set up a specific UC complaints procedure, including appropriate provisions for landlords to complain.
  • Vitally, there is a need to ensure that DWP’s staff follow the correct procedures and that sufficient resources are in place to process APA claims in particular.

The Commons Library has also published a briefing paper explaining the key differences between assistance with housing costs under the Housing Benefit regime and under Universal Credit.

The paper considers evidence of the impact of claiming housing costs under Universal Credit to date and the Government response.

The debate, entitled “The effect of Universal Credit on the private rented sector”, initiated by Stephen Lloyd MP, will take place in Westminster Hall at 9.30am next Tuesday, January 9.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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