Campaigns Welfare Reform and Homelessness

UC changes in Scotland will cut rent arrears

universal credit
Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Benefits tenants claiming Universal Credit in Scotland can now have the housing element paid straight to their landlord.

Recipients in Scotland are now being offered two new ways to help them manage their money.

The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Government powers to vary how Universal Credit is paid there.

As a result of this those in full service areas can now choose to be paid either once or twice monthly, and to have the housing cost element of their Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.

The RLA has been campaigning on this issue after a survey of almost 3,000 landlords, found that of those with Universal Credit claimant tenants, 38 per cent reported tenants going into rent arrears, with the average figure owed £1,150.

Universal Credit bundles different benefits into a single monthly payment, mimicking a wage, to encourage claimants to manage their money themselves and promote financial responsibility.

As it stands payments can be made directly to the landlords when a UC claimant is in two months of arrears or more.

Some tenants would prefer the money went directly to their landlord to prevent this situation occurring in the first place, but currently there is no mechanism for them to do this.

With evidence that more and more landlords are becoming reluctant to let to benefits tenants as a result of issue with Universal Credit and its operation, the RLA believes the UK government should follow suit and give tenants more choice.

Chris Town, Vice Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said: “Allowing tenants to choose to have their rent paid directly to landlords will enable them to better plan their spending and will prevent many from falling into arrears.

“It will also give confidence to landlords to rent to those on benefit giving tenants more choice.

“We strongly urge the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead.”

The RLA has been campaigning for the rollout in England to be paused and gave evidence to a government select committee on the issue.

However, at the Conservative Party Conference this week Works and Pensions minister David Gauke MP said the accelerated rollout would continue as planned.

The RLA offers a training course on Universal Credit. To find out more, including dates and priced click here.

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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