The RLA has given evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the troubled roll out of Universal Credit.
RLA senior policy officer Natalie Williamson asked the committee to recommend halting the roll out of Universal Credit until more work is done with PRS landlords to iron out the glitches and snags they are facing.
Key to this is looking at the delays in payments to claimants, including the seven day ‘waiting days’ plus the average six-seven weeks that it takes for payments to reach tenants which almost immediately puts them at eight weeks arrears and at risk of eviction.
Arrears are also continuing to escalate with direct payments not being processed quickly enough.
Questioning focused on how the roll-out of the Universal Credit full service is progressing, looking at its implications for PRS landlords, as well as social landlords and councils, as well as looking at whether the accelerated roll-out from October 2017 should go ahead as planned.
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 asked that the Minister reconsider tenant choice for direct payment to the landlord and 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 warning signs are already there with a 10 percentage point increase in rent arrears in just a year from 27% in 2016 to 38% in 2017 since housing costs were paid directly to the tenant under Universal credit – and warned that ultimately PRS landlords will no longer rent to tenants on benefits if the system isn’t improved urgently.
This was the first evidence session for the newly reformed committee, held at Portcullis House.
In addition to the RLA evidence was given by 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.
To watch a video of the Select Committee click here.
To read the RLAs recent research report on welfare reform click here.
To view the RLA guide to Universal Credit and the way it operates click here.
The RLA runs a course on Universal Credit including information on how the benefit is assessed and paid, changes that will affect the award and payments, rental income and rent arrears control. For information and to book click here.