A policy director for the National Landlords Association has said that members are far less likely to rent to Universal Credit claimants than people entitled to benefits just six years ago.
The number of NLA members in Yorkshire willing to accept Universal Credit (UC) tenants or those receiving Housing Benefit has almost halved from the second quarter of 2012 to this year – from 43 per cent to 26 per cent.
Housing Benefit is being phased into the UC welfare reforms up to 2023.
Chris Norris, NLA director of policy and practice, said that landlords’ hesitance to rent to those in receipt of the benefit means the claimants are vulnerable to criminal housing conditions.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post as part of a week-long series of articles about the Government’s flagship benefit reforms, Mr Norris said: “It happens on a case-by-case basis, so this is obviously all generalised, but an awful lot of landlords are saying, ‘This is no longer worth my time’.”
He said that because of UC’s “negative reception”, there is “quite a distrust of the centralising of the system for a lot of landlords”, who may no longer know the name of a claimant’s benefits officer to contact if problems such as rent arrears occur.
Mr Norris added: “Universal Credit simply has not kept in line with inflation.”
In April 2016, the Government announced a four-year freeze on certain benefits which had previously raised in line with inflation.
“With the Government freeze on housing supported renters which is going to extend to 2020, there is a really significant gap building up there,” he said.
Mr Norris added that there will be a situation where “tenants won’t be able to cover the costs” and “if the landlords tried to run the rent at a level that would work with Universal Credit, they won’t be able to run the property”.
He added: “The problem is, some who are still prepared to let and take on in some cases much lower rents, are those who aren’t investing back into the property.
“At best they are lazy investors, perhaps ignorant investors. At worst, they are actively criminals who will come and fill the gap left by the good landlords.”
He said: “If you make it impossible to provide good housing, what you’ve got left is rogue landlords providing bad housing.”