The results, taken from the NLA’s Quarterly Landlord Panel, showed that the number of landlords willing to let their properties to housing benefit claimants has fallen to 20%, from 34% at the start of 2013.
The NLA also revealed that two-thirds of landlords who let to housing benefit recipients said the tenants had fallen behind on rental payments in the past 12 months.
Citing administrative difficulties in dealing with the Universal Credit system, the time taken to secure direct payment to the landlord, and the six week waiting period causing tenants to be two months in arrears by the first payment — the NLA has called on the government to pause the national roll out of the Universal Credit program and to lift the current freeze on housing benefits rates.
Universal Credit problems
The Universal Credit project offers a monthly payment to help with claimants’ living costs, and was announced by the government in 2010 to replace six means-tested benefits with the single payment scheme.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, said: “Underlying all the problems with Universal Credit is the freeze on housing benefit rates, which means that the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to be able to cover their rent.”
In April 2016, the government announced a four year freeze on benefits — a move designed to save the Treasury around £3.7bn by 2020 — previously, working-age benefits were raised in line with inflation.
“The decline in social housing means that some of the most vulnerable in society can only turn to the private rented sector.” Lambert added: “We have long called for the freeze to be scrapped as it creates a barrier that prevents claimants from securing the housing they need.”
“If the government is serious about helping then it needs to press pause on the roll out of Universal Credit, and fix its underlying problems. Otherwise more and more people will find themselves homeless as the proportion of landlords who consider themselves able to house those who need it most will keep on falling.”
The research is announced as the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee questions the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the roll out of Universal Credit.