Tenants continue to be baffled by universal credit

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The government's stuttering universal credit system is continuing to baffle tenants, new research has revealed.

Half of those who took part in the National Landlords Association's survey said that though they are aware that UC will replace the current benefits system, they don't fully understand what it means.

And 21% of respondents said they are completely unaware of UC. Only 30% said they are fully aware of the changes and what to expect.

UC, which replaces six existing benefits with one single monthly payment, was launched in 2011 but has been beset with problems. Last year, £34 million was lost after parts of the new IT system built for UC had to be written off.

One of the major changes under UC will see housing benefit paid to tenants rather than directly to landlords.

But the research found that 28% of tenants would prefer that the payments were paid directly to their landlords, to help them avoid falling into arrears.

Carolyn Uphill, NLA chairman, said: “Benefit payments simply haven’t kept up with rents over the past few years as the UC programme has progressed and cuts to welfare payments have been made. This has led to concern among many landlords that tenants will fall behind on rent as their finances become increasingly squeezed.

“If tenants don’t fully understand what UC is or haven’t even heard of it, more and more landlords will lose confidence that letting to this market is financially viable, especially with the high demand and availability from other types of tenants.

“Our findings show a significant number of tenants would prefer their housing support to be paid directly to their landlord. If this was an option from the beginning of the tenancy it would avoid the build-up of arrears in the first place, give landlords the confidence that rent would be paid on time and lead to fewer tenancies ending prematurely.”