The RLA’s research into Universal Credit and its impact on the PRS was quoted extensively in a Westminster debate today.
Several Ministers cited data from the RLA’s research arm PEARL during discussions on the effect of Universal Credit on the private rented sector.
Leading the debate, Stephen Lloyd MP referred to research by the RLA, which found that in the past twelve months, one in three landlords has attempted to evict a tenant on Universal Credit with 60% taking action due to rent arrears.
My Lloyd said that this research “not only means unnecessary suffering for tens of thousands of housing benefit recipients, but poses a threat to the future of benefits claimants ever succeeding to rent in the private sector, because once a tenant has a bad record, it is extremely difficult to unwind”.
The issue of direct payments was raised by several MPs, with Tracy Brabin MP, the MP for Batley and Spen saying that the greatest concern for landlords is the move away from direct payments.
Ms Brabin said that many landlords worry that tenants will not have the ability to budget effectively, and will end up spending the ‘housing element’ of Universal Credit on other things.
The RLA is calling for ‘Tenant Choice’ to be introduced, which would give a tenant the right to elect to have Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.
Ms Brabin went on to cite the results of a snap survey that was conducted by the RLA following the budget last year, which found 36% of landlords surveyed would have confidence letting to tenants on Universal Credit. Sadly, the same snap survey found that 64% would not.
During the debate, Stephen Lloyd MP praised the recent change that was announced by the DWP on Alternatvie Payment Arrangements (APAs). The change means that landlords will no longer need tenants’ consent when they apply for APAs, as the ‘explicit consent’ to this has been removed.
The RLA campaigned extensively for this change to APA’s to be made.
Addressing the concerns about the roll out of Universal Credit that were raised by MPs during the debate, the Minister, Caroline Dinenage MP, (who has since been moved to another post in the Cabinet reshuffle) responded by saying that the government recognises that landlords can not afford to be in rent arrears as they operate small businesses.
She also went on to acknowledge that the DWP regularly engages with PRS landlords and their representatives – with the RLA meeting with Ms Dinenage last year to discuss issues including rent arrears and direct payments.
She said it was meetings such as this that have led to the recent changes to the way Universal Credit operates, including last week’s decision to remove explicit consent required for APA’s.
Responding to Ms Dinenage, Stephen Lloyd said that the changes to Universal Credit that have occurred so far are a ‘step in the right direction”.
Find out more
- The RLA run training courses on Universal Credit, which are delivered by housing benefits expert and RLA trainer Bill Irvine. With dates nationwide including in Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester and York, please see here for more details about the course and to book.
- The RLA also offer several useful documents and guides on Universal Credit, which can be accessed on the website here
- To watch the video stream of the debate when it took place, please click here.