More than a third of private landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit have said that they are now in rent arrears, which is an increase by over 10% since last year.
According to a recent survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) of almost 3,000 landlords, of those with Universal Credit claimants as tenants, 38% reported experiencing tenants going into rent arrears, up from 27% in February 2016.
The average amount owed in rent arrears by Universal Credit tenants to private sector landlords is now £1,150, according to the RLA.
The RLA now fears that government plans to increase the pace at which the Credit is rolled out across the country from next month will be a mistake, unless there are urgent reforms.
The trade body wants to see measures to cut the seven week period that claimants have to wait before they can begin to receive Universal Credit and measures to make it easier and quicker for payments to be made directly to the landlord where tenant arrears are building up.
RLA vice chairman, Chris Town, said: “Whilst we continue to welcome the principle of simplifying the benefit system, it cannot be right that as it is currently designed, Universal Credit is leading many more tenants into rent arrears. This is not financially responsible and does nothing to encourage landlords to house people needing to claim benefit.
“We have already met with the Minister and are heartened that the Department understands the need to address the problem of rent arrears. With just weeks to go before the roll out of Universal Credit gathers pace we need action sooner rather than later.”