Nearly two-thirds of PRS tenants claiming Universal Credit in arrears

Increasing numbers of private renters in receipt of Universal Credit are finding themselves in rent arrears, according to new research.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) found that three in every five landlords (61%) with tenants claiming Universal Credit have experienced them going into arrears at some point.

In 2016, the proportion of landlords experiencing arrears from Universal Credit claimants was 27%.

Furthermore, the average owed by tenants in rent arrears grew by 49% over the past year, with the figure standing at £2,400.

The RLA also found regular delays affecting the alternative payment arrangement (APA) system, with landlords applying to have housing benefit paid directly to them waiting an average of two months for these payments to be organised.

The body, which represents private landlords, has called on the government to allow tenants to choose to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.

David Smith, policy director at RLA, said: “Our research shows clearly that further changes are urgently needed to Universal Credit.

“We welcome the constructive engagement we have had with the government over these issues but more work is needed to give landlords the confidence they need to rent to those on Universal Credit.

“The impact of the announcements from the Autumn Budget last year remain to be seen. However, we feel a major start would be to give tenants the right to choose to have payments paid directly to their landlord. This would empower tenants to decide what is best for them rather than being told by the government.”

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