Call for housing element of Universal Credit to be paid to landlords for all claimants

Scotland’s largest membership organisation for landlords in the private rented sector has asked the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to private and social landlords for all Scottish claimants.

Giving oral evidence to the social security committee of the Scottish Parliament yesterday, John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), said the move will encourage landlords to provide homes to benefit recipients.

Call for housing element of Universal Credit to be paid to landlords for all claimants

John Blackwood

SAL believes this move would also increase the supply of housing, prevent rent arrears, help tackle homelessness and reduce the need for councils to provide temporary accommodation.

The current Universal Credit regime limits the direct payment of the housing element to those with tier 1 or tier 2 vulnerabilities such as addiction, mental health issues, bereavement or those not in education, employment or training.

In their evidence, SAL also pointed to a number of other problems with Universal Credit which are leading to landlords being cautious of renting to Universal Credit recipients. These included:

  • Poor response times from DWP
  • Misleading or incorrect information being given to landlords and tenants
  • Unclear payment schedules

These confusions and problems are leading to tenants building up significant rent arrears, discouraging landlords from providing housing to Universal Credit recipients.

Speaking after giving evidence to the committee, John Blackwood said: “Private landlords in Scotland want to provide high quality accommodation to anyone who wants it, including those receiving Universal Credit. However, landlords are constantly frustrated and discouraged from doing so because of the uncertainty inherent in the current system.

“In addition to numerous administrative delays and confusion which see landlords and tenants receiving inaccurate or misleading information, the limitation that only some of those on Universal Credit have their housing element paid directly to their landlord, be that private or social, is a significant systematic flaw.

“We want to see changes made that would see the housing element paid directly to landlords in all instances. This would provide a degree of certainty and help prevent tenants getting into rent arrears, thus encouraging private landlords to continue to provide housing to those on Universal Credit.

“This increase in supply would help to tackle homelessness and reduce the pressure on councils to provide temporary accommodation which is sometimes of very poor quality. The committee seemed receptive to these ideas and arguments and I hope will recommend urgent action is taken.”

SAL’s written evidence to the social security committee can be viewed here.

The minutes of the meeting are available here.

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