Universal credit will cause up to 1.3 million evictions from privately rented homes, Liberal Democrat Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson, Stephen Lloyd, has warned.
Lloyd said delays in payments meant more tenants were in rent arrears, and this could lead to a sharp rise in benefit claimants in the private rented sector being evicted, and potentially made homeless.
The MP, like many housing experts, would like to see universal credit's rent element paid directly to landlords. But new data released this week by the DWP reveals that just 6% of universal credit claimants in the private rented sector have their rent paid directly to their landlords, compared to 35% in the socially rented sector.
According to the Residential Landlords Association, 73% of landlords still lack confidence in renting to tenants on Universal Credit due to uncertainty that they will be able to recover rent arrears, while 38% have already experienced universal credit tenants going into arrears.
Lloyd commented: “Back in January I led a Parliamentary debate calling on the government to make direct payments to private landlords the default option for Universal Credit. Consequently I am deeply disappointed these are still far lower in the private sector than the socially rented sector.
“If this doesn’t change, we should expect a spike in evictions by private landlords who are already wary of renting to people on benefits, and a rise in homelessness that local authorities will have to deal with. People on Universal Credit often live in difficult circumstances which can prevent them from paying their rent on time, as soaring rent arrears under UC testify to.
“And the government cannot argue that this is technically unfeasible, because their DUP friends in Northern Ireland have already figured out how to make payments to landlords the default option. If the Universal Credit ‘computer’ allows that to happen over there, then why not here?”