The number of people seeking advice over rent arrears has increased by 47% over the past five years due primarily to the roll-out of Universal Credit, according to a new report.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) published a paper yesterday in which it blamed changes to the social security system for the hike in the number of people facing problems paying their rent.
The report found that the most common reasons for rent arrears were a benefits issue, loss of income or unexpected costs, with incidence of rent arrears significantly higher among tenants receiving Universal Credit.
The CAS report - Our Rent Arrears - Causes and Consequences - found:
+ The growth in rent arrears advice coincided closely with changes to the social security system;
+ Almost a quarter of those living in rented accommodation have experienced rent arrears in last five years;
+ CAB clients with rent arrears are more likely to be in part-time employment or unemployed;
+ They are more likely to be single person or a lone parent, to be aged between 25 and 44, and to live in the 20% most deprived areas.
CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said: “The rise in rent arrears is one of the most worrying trends we see across the Citizens Advice Bureau network at the moment.
“While there are a number of factors driving this, we have no doubt that the flaws in Universal Credit are one of the main ones.
“For the past 18 months we have been calling for a halt and fix to Universal Credit.
“We have set out again today the key flaws that need to be addressed, including reducing the waiting period before payment, cutting out processing delays and reducing deductions.
“These are relatively simple changes that could make a huge difference to millions of people.”
Separate analysis of the impact of Universal Credit, compiled by the Policy in Practice consultancy, has revealed that almost two in five households in receipt of benefits would lose an average of £52 a week, and this has led to a sharp rise in the number of private landlords with tenants receiving Universal Credit going into rent arrears.