Universal Credit 'will not work', say private landlords

A majority of private landlords have rejected the Government’s welfare reform plans for housing benefit, saying there will not be enough accommodation available.

Releasing details of a survey of over 1,000 landlords across the UK, the Residential Landlords Association and the Scottish Association of Landlords found that 65.2% of respondents do not support the Government’s plans for Universal Credit.

Asked whether there are sufficient numbers of shared properties in their areas to cope with the extra demand as a result of a decision earlier this year to increase from 25 to 35 the age at which housing benefit claimants can claim only for a room in a shared property, 54.6% said there was not.

Following pronouncements by welfare reform minister Lord Freud last week, when he spoke of the ‘success’ of the Government’s temporary policy of allowing landlords to have housing benefits paid directly to them in return for reduced rents, 62.3% of respondents said they would not lower rents in return for direct payments.

The greatest concern reflected the ambivalence of the Government over the circumstances in which payments of housing benefits would be made direct to landlords.

While at present landlords can demand payments to be made to them when a tenant reaches eight weeks of arrears, so far there has been no clear pledge to retain the policy.

Asked how they would respond if the ‘right to demand’ direct payment became only a ‘right to request’, 91.6% said it would make them less likely to rent to those on benefits.

Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “These results clearly show deep concern on the part of landlords about the direction that the Government’s Universal Credit policies are taking.”