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Sharp rise in rent arrears involving tenants on Universal Credit

Universal Credit was described by one national newspaper as an ‘ill-conceived shambles’ over the weekend, after former prime ministers Gordon Brown and John Major suggested that the government’s plans to complete the roll-out of Universal Credit risked provoking a response similar to the civil disorder that greeted the poll tax.

The breadth and depth of opposition to the way changes to the payment of benefits has been progressing is amazing, but not surprising, given the design flaws of the new system.

A comprehensive analysis of the impact of Universal Credit, compiled by the Policy in Practice consultancy, found that almost two in five households in receipt of benefits would lose an average of £52 a week, and this is having a catastrophic impact on vulnerable groups, which in turn is having an adverse affect on many buy-to-let landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit.


Fresh research shows that almost two-thirds of private landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit have experienced them going into rent arrears.

Based on responses from over 2,200 landlords, the Residential Landlord Association’s (RLA) research exchange, PEARL, has found that 61% of landlords with tenants on Universal Credit have experienced them going into rent arrears. This is up from 27% in 2016.

The study found that on average Universal Credit tenants in rent arrears owed almost £2,400, which is up almost half - 49% - compared to last year. 


Some 53% of landlords with tenants on Universal Credit applied for direct payment to be made directly to them instead of to the tenant, known as an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA).

Where successful it took, on average, over two months for this to be organised, on top of the two months arrears already accrued. This has caused arrears to build up substantially.

The RLA is calling for APA to be improved, which includes offering tenants the option of being able to choose where it is best for them to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to the landlord.

It is calling also for private landlords to be given more information about a tenant’s claim, such as when they receive payments, where this is in the best interest of the tenant to sustain the tenancy so that suitable rent payment schedules can be arranged.

At present, this is provided to social sector landlords, but not to those in the private sector.

Formal mechanisms should also be put in place to enable landlords to reclaim rent arrears where Universal Credit tenants leave a property owing rent.

RLA policy director, David Smith, 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.”

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Poll: Are you willing to rent to Universal Credit recipients?


  • James B

    Pity shelter won’t be interested in this, in their endless campaigns for landlords to take housing benefit tenants !

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    This why most of us now say no DSS, we just know we are unlikely to get paid, so why would we let to them.


    Also, would they be prepared to pay for any damage that may ensue at the property?


    My own experience is that damage can be worse than loosing a few month rent in terms of cost. Unfortunately they usually occur together Then you have to evict and carry on paying rents.

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    • 15 October 2018 09:43 AM

    Breathtaking endless stupidity

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    Have a tenant on UC and it has been an absolute nightmare, am now getting direct payment but large arrears. I have no idea how much we will be getting each month we just have to wait and see !!!!
    Will I do UC tenants again - absolutely not under the current scheme

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    • 15 October 2018 14:16 PM


  • Simon D

    Universal Chaos!!

  • Simon D

    It's no use giving tenants the option where the Rent portion of their UC goes, they'll still want it all. Rent should automatically be paid to the landlord.

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    and yet moron mays mob want to give debtors an extra 6 weeks to pay--which most will not pay and debt goes up by 6 weeks rent etc

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    We had a tenant who spent his rent, we reported it to the U/c and they paid him another months rent. 5 times we sent in the direct payment form and they still said they had not got it. in the end the tenant gave notice and left . we were told we would not get the final weeks rent, nor would we get any rent he had spent, even though at first they said they would look at it.so when I said I would be going to the guarantor for the rent they simply couldnt care less.
    if you take tenants you should set the rent to the quality of the tenant , as they do with car insurance , I will take any one but the rent reflects the risk S>D>L

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    its 8 30 after ringing yesterday and giving up as there was a wait of an hour . she has been told they have no consent to talk to us. yet 3 days ago they had consent and talked to my wife. its now 3 months and no rent payment S.D.L

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    RLA calling for housing benefit Tenants to have the option of whether to pay LL directly, surely he must mean mandatory.

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    • 17 October 2020 11:54 AM

    Sorry no. It is not mandatory.
    Strangely too, even if UC agree to pay directly to you, the tenant can change it back to themselves and neither the tenant nor the UC are obliged to inform you!!!!

    How ridiculously crazy and unfair is that setup?

    Total madness. Especially when the UC is paid for tax payers as well.


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