Private landlords are complaining that yet again they are facing double standards and discrimination when it comes to the Government’s roll out of Universal Credit (UC).
First of all private landlords were made to accept direct rent payments to their tenants many years before social landlords – councils and housing associations, which were only now brought under the direct payments regime with the advent of UC.
Most social landlords have objected strongly to the idea of direct payments – a system private landlords have had to learn to live with for many years now – saying that the system will lead to substantial rent arrears.
Now, it seems, social landlords will get priority yet again from The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which has established a help line for landlords with tenants on Universal Credit who are facing difficulties with their housing costs. The help line will only be available for the social rented sector and will exclude all private sector landlords.
The help line support is in addition to social housing landlords being given access to claims and arrears information on tenants receiving Universal Credit, information which will be denied to private landlords.
A substantial proportion of social (those on housing benefit) tenants are now housed by private landlords, more than one quarter of all tenants according to the most recent English Housing Survey. What’s more, this proportion is set to grow according to the trend.
So why, private landlords are asking, should they be discriminated against in this way when they are taking up the mantle of the social sector without due recognition, appreciation or support?
Commenting on the latest development, Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association has said:
“Growing numbers of tenants on housing benefit are looking to the private rented sector for a home to live in. It is vital therefore that landlords are given all the support needed to encourage them to accept such tenants.
“The news that the Government’s Universal Credit helpline cannot be used by private sector landlords will do little to provide such confidence and cause many to consider if renting to benefit claimants is worth the risk.
“We are calling on the Government to recognise the damage they may be doing to the choices available to tenants on benefit and end the discrimination against the private rented sector.”