Laura Sharman 12 July 2018

Housing bodies warn of increase in Universal Credit rent arrears

Nearly three-quarters of households on Universal Credit are in rent arrears compared to 26% of all households, new research has revealed.

The report, published by the NFA and ARCH, highlights the levels of debt caused by the government’s welfare reforms.

On average, Universal Credit households were £520 in arrears, one and a half times higher than arrears in general (£328).

The report found that levels of debt have not been significantly improved despite the removal of the seven day waiting period, and calls on Government to slow down the roll-out until the outstanding problems have been fixed.

Eamon McGoldrick, NFA managing director, said: ‘We are pleased that the Government has listened to us and other partners and implemented changes to the UC system which should see improvements for tenants and landlords as the roll out progresses. We will continue to work with DWP to ensure our members’ experience and concerns shape the system.

‘However, we still have deep concerns about the ongoing impact of UC on tenants, many of whom are already deeply vulnerable, and we are calling on the Government to fix the biggest flaw in the UC system, which is payment in arrears.’

In response, a DWP spokesperson said: ‘Rent arrears are complicated and they cannot be attributed to a single cause. Our research shows that many people join Universal Credit (UC) with pre-existing arrears, but the proportion of people with arrears falls by a third after four months in UC.

‘This report recognises that we have made significant improvements to help claimants get support sooner and the impact of these changes is still to be felt. This includes removing the seven waiting days, making 100% advance payments available from day one and providing two weeks’ extra housing support for people joining UC from Housing Benefit, that doesn't have to be repaid.’

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