Landlord Moira Lumb has vowed never to rent to tenants on Universal Credit again after struggling to get help with a non-paying tenant claiming benefit.

Despite her tenant being two months’ in arrears and spending the benefits, Moira has been told there’s a four-month waiting list before the Universal Credit office can investigate her problem.

“When I first tried to contact the office the numbers didn’t work, then I tried emailing and the messages bounced back,” Moira tells LandlordZONE. “Now they’ve told me it’s four months – I feel let down by the system.”

Her tenants, a woman and her children, moved into one of Moira’s six properties in Halifax (pictured) in September, funded by the council’s children’s services department using Universal Credit.

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After not paying her £520 a month rent for two months without explanation, Moira has been forced to start legal proceedings using Landlord Action.

Six months’ notice

“I’ll have to serve a six-month notice and if she refuses to leave it could be over a year before it gets sorted, while I’m having to use my savings to cover the mortgage payments on that property,” she says.

Moira’s tenant has been uncooperative throughout the short tenancy and tried to force her to lay carpets when the tenants had already got the money from the council to pay for it.

Now she won’t let Moira access the property, who fears if she won’t let anyone in to service the boiler in a few weeks, her warranty won’t be valid if it breaks down.

“I’ve been a landlord for 16 years and never had anyone evicted. We work hard to make sure tenants’ repairs are done quickly and have also had other tenants who claim Universal Credit and never had a problem with them.”

Moira is resigned to paying £2,000 in legal fees for the eventual eviction as she says at least she’ll eventually have her house back.

But with no support for landlords in situations like this – made even harder by the current climate – this experience has changed her views. She adds: “We’re reasonable people but we’re not going to be reasonable anymore.”

Read more about the problems with Universal Credit.

35 COMMENTS

  1. It should be fraud to spend money given to you by the state to pay for your rent on anything other than your rent.

    What is the point of evaluating exactly how much LHA a person is entitled to if then then spend it on something else?

  2. If you don’t pay council tax, you can go to prison, if you don’t pay your tax bill, you can go to prison, if you fail to pay for your shopping at Asda it’s theft, if you don’t pay your mortgage you can lose your property – but if you don’t pay your rent to your landlord, nothing!!!!
    Why does the establishment believe all landlords are loaded & can still operate without getting their rent?
    We’re just treated as scum

    • Sorry….a tenant can be evicted quickly…only if you are a royal like the Queen…peasants who try to be landlords will be bound by rules that constantly remind you that you are a peasant landlord….the establishment is designed from the ground up in such a manner…one thinks…

    • You can’t go to prison in Wales for non council tax payment. The other side of the coin; some of us pay rent on time and without question. Some of us have faulty boilers, holes in the floors and windows which don’t fit the frames, don’t dry our washing inside, respect the neighbours, aren’t anti social and when we complain about any faults or landlord non compliance, we are threatened with s21 notices. Good and bad on each side. And we are the lowest of the low because we are tenants

      • Christine – your landlord cannot issue a section 21 notice once you have reported repairs. The law changed a couple of years ago to safeguard that happening. Also, you can report your landlord to your local council. On the flip side, Landlords cannot report tenants to anyone but the courts and the courts take forever to hear cases and send bailiffs. The government treat all landlords as slum landlords who make money off the weak and vulnerable!

    • Yes. My property was vacant for 3-months. Due to the covid-19 situation, it was very difficult to find new tenants due to Covid-19 situation. There was a restriction for viewing of the property from the Government. All estate agent was shut. No builder was available for a repair of vacated property. . No dist bin was using during the vacated property. But the local council is not bothering. they are demanding a full council tax for a vacated property.

  3. I have a very similar problem myself, I’m owed around £11K by tenant family on universal credit, notice served ages ago, legal process started by can’t move forward due to covid 19 rules. Been given roun around by universal credit for months. It’s outragious and very depressing knowing they’re bing aloud to do this and I’m powerless. Thinking of looking into suing govt once I know the eventual outcome.

  4. I had exactly the same problem. Universal Credit paid rent direct to tenant, despite the fact that the tenancy agreement states rent must be paid direct to landlord, tenant kept it.
    Constant excuses and lies from tenant claiming that universal credit had made a mistake with her claim.
    I had no way of contacting universal credit by phone or email.
    3 months later tenant did one and moved out over night.
    Goodbye £1560 !!!
    Law protects tenants and doesn’t give a toss about the landlords !!!

    • Think yourself lucky that they did a moonlight flit. They could have dragged this out for at least another year and you would have lost a lot more. I breathe a sigh of relief when tenants like this leg it, especially when they leave the keys posted through the letterbox.

  5. Not sure why anyone would be willing to rent out to people on universal credit. It scares me reading these stories and highly reluctant to rent a property out to them. Did you not do checks? Did you ask for a guarantor and get their information? Did you not meet the guarantor?

    Yes, the law protects tenants. So, either you invest in 100s of properties or invest in 0. Be poor or be millionaire. Don’t be anything in the middle.

  6. The only problems I’ve ever had is with people on benefits and navigating the benefit system. The law only applies to landlords – not tenants. They get away with everything while we struggle under increasing legislation and fines if we don’t comply. The benefits system should be fined for misuse of public money. I agree with Robert above – the government should be made accountable. They make us comply so why shouldn’t they when after all, its our money that’s being misused.

  7. At the moment it’s like printing money for some unscrupulous tenants. They pocket the money from the state knowing full well that it will be a year before they’ll be evicted. Sadly the government does not give a jot.

    • There are more tenants than landlords —-> more votes from tenants…landlords are out numbered….sell while you can before they hit the lanlords with higher CGT…

  8. Had a tenat in one of my properties eventually got uc paid directly to myself.
    he moved out 18 months ago and iam still getting his rent and also getting new tenants. i have contacted them by phone waited 55 minutes only to be told tenant is the only one who can inform them so i emailed 6 seperate occasions and they still pay me. i have had over £5000 in rent that they do not seem to want back.

    • I laughed out loud when I read this. I hope you have kept the money aside because, from experience, I can tell you that they will come after you with the full force of the law once they decide that you have defrauded them. (even though you haven’t).

      • Haven’t they? Let’s hope that have paper trails for all contact to the DWP. The landlord here knows he’s receiving money that he shouldn’t. One phone call with ‘only the tenant can inform them etc, will not defend him in a criminal court. Let’s hope he’s out the money to one side. They will chase him

  9. I have several properties in the lower end of the rental market and have had several tenants on benefits and UC all who have been reasonable and decent human beings, until Jan 2020.
    I had a request from my local council “housing options ” dept who house people in dire straits usually through no fault of their own. But the BIT*H From H*LL was the one that i got. Even though I thought I knew how the system worked (and have a bit of inside info)this trollop used every trick in the book and Covid played right into her hands.
    After 2 months with no rent paid (and the UC being blamed) I got and order to pay the rent direct and received one payment. The moment the trollop didn’t get her rent money she closed the UC claim under some pretence and started afresh. UC dont tell the LL this so it’s not until you don’t get paid that you find out. Now I can’t evict because of Covid so I have to post another claim and i am short another 2 months rent. Same thing happens. Once she got to 9 months of rent arrears I issued a section 8 and the courts have to issue an eviction notice.
    Even when she left i discovered that she had bypassed the electric meter and was stealing electricity which Utilita came out to change and repair. I offered to be a witness to the crime and hoped they would pursue it but no it’s not worth their effort was the reply.

    11 months of no rent in a newly fully refurbished house and then a £2500.00 bill to bring it back up to scratch.

    I agree if the government want us to house the lower end of the social scale then they need to put some legislation in otherwise LL will stop housing them and local councils don’t have any housing stock anymore……welcome to the trailer park trash that the US has

  10. I had a similar problem and the Tenant even told me – if I believe her- that the Council had said to sit tight as there was nothing I could do about it without going through costly eviction proceedings!

  11. Interesting point from Smiffy. The tenant sets up a new claim its back to square 1 for the LL. They aren’t glad we’ve supplied a house they just see it as another person/system/organisation to scam money from. As LL’s we are hated and some scumbags who’ve never worked a day in their life are allowed often in conjunction with the LA and DWP to dictate when we are paid if at all. No thought for our families and outgoings, disgusting.

  12. why can’t we have a website “identifying” (or at least giving initials and DOB and other details ( that wouldn’t cause a data/security breach)/area they have links with) these tnts who work the system and repeatedly cheat landlords and the benefits system. Yes there are CCJ ‘s to browse, but often creditors don’t resort to this knowing you can’t get blood out of a stone, there is expense and stress involved. Also, many use aliasis, so until you actually see their passport, it’s too late.

    • Because these bad tenants would then become a problem for authorities, so better to not disclose issues and leave it for the landlord to deal with the inevitable mess. Notwithstanding, of course, providing a register of bad tenants would likely infringe on their rights, no matter the consequences for the landlord down the road.

    • Lavinia – as part of the right to rent checks you should be seeing potential tenants photo ID (passport or driving license)! Hope you’re keeping up to date with legislation or you could come a cropper! Also, you could set up a private, closed, facebook group and invite local landlords to join. There you can swap info regarding bad tenants etc.

  13. oh, and my nightmare tnt (of 7 yrs owing me thousands, multiple issues with HB, then UC) has found another 2 bed flat in Nottingham somewhere, family links there, possibly early to middle of this year, so now she can defraud more unsuspecting lodgers and applicants (one lost £1300) and her new landlord. No doubt using covid as an excuse this time, although she moved out of my place before it hit . Caucasion , late 40’s

  14. It would appear that this government or any other government which comes into power next do not want Private Landlords. I personally think that they prefer to have Social Housing who pay a lot in taxes, and that is why we as private landlords are being punished especially the ones like myself with 1 to 4 houses who are trying to provide for our pensions., who are below the tax threshold Its not about tenants rights or Landlords rights they don’t care about either its about money. I have looked into local social housing websites and there are a lot of posts from disgruntled tenants, complaining that repairs are not being done. and some from neighbours whom own properties who were having problems with anti- social behaviour from social housing tenants. ( No selective licensing for social housing ). ( No proposed EPC C rating for them. We have a massive problem in this country, you are punished for working hard, providing for your retirement and family, whilst being lazy, fraud, criminal damage is rewarded or at the very least not punished . Probably want us all to sell our properties cheap once they have devalued the market and bought up by social housing who don’t seem to be operating under the same constraints as the PRS.

  15. “We’re reasonable people but we’re not going to be reasonable anymore.”

    Given your experience, refusing to take tenants on UC is not unreasonable.

  16. The way landlords are treated, not just with Covid but with the slew of anti-landlord legislation, taxation and costs coming our way (e.g. EPC requirements), completely fail any reasonable fairness test. We are the whipping boys for all the ills of the housing sector as well as an easy target for virtue signaling governments who tout for votes, demonstrate their green credentials or use us to placate leftist tenant advocacy groups such as Shelter. And they do it because they know there will be little resistance since we have no collective clout, and the Tories have abandoned us because it is politically expedient to do so.

    The obvious way forward would be to form some sort of landlord union with some collective muscle to push back, but since most landlords are private individuals with a single property, they are not interested in engaging, meantime we are just fodder for any politically motivated diktat.

  17. Hi everyone thanks for your comments. Bill Irvine, an expert in this field, wants to post this, but a glitch in our system has prevented him doing so. He says: “Hi Everyone

    Having read Moira’s account, the various comments in this thread and the number of views this article has already attracted, I’m all the more convinced, as far as Universal Credit “housing costs” are concerned, the Private Landlords’ position is getting worse rather than better.

    I first started pursuing issues with DWP re APAs in 2014/15 and secured agreement with its directorate that when an APA request was received from a landlord, DWP staff would suspend payment of the “housing costs” while the merits of the APA were being considered. DWP have subsequently reneged on that agreement, causing wholly unnecessary rental loss to landlords.

    In 2017 I challenged its Director General https://www.propertytribes.com/dear-mr-couling-dwps-director-general-t-127629460.html to do something to stem the landlords’ loss and protect public funds from being misused. HMG Ministers have an obligation to ensure this does not happen. Mr Couling in response maintained I was exaggerating the extent of the problem.

    Subsequent complaints about these substantial losses have been sustained by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) but failed to produce the desired compensation to offset the complainant landlords’ losses. I have since raised 3 of these cases with the Parliamentary Ombudsman (PHSO). The process has already taken DWP – 6 months to complete its internal process- ICE 2 years – lastly the PHSO has been considering the cases for around 3 months. In other words, 3 years with still no outcome!

    I recently responded to another LandlordZone thread suggesting:

    “For what it is worth, what should happen when a landlord applies for an APA is:

    The application should be acknowledged and given an automatic reference number, which can be used in any follow-up enquiries; and

    If the basis of the landlord’s request is rent arrears, as soon as the application is received, the HCE should be suspended, pending a decision on the merits of the landlord’s request; (I note, this practice is now being adopted by some DWP staff, which is entirely sensible and warmly welcomed. It’s just a pity they haven’t done this earlier as the hierarchy agreed to do this in 2015 exchanges with me.

    If the application is made in relation to a tenant with vulnerabilities (e.g., drugs or alcohol misuse; mental health; recent eviction for rent arrears etc) similarly, the HCE should be suspended pending a decision.

    Once a decision is made, the landlord should be notified and, in the event of refusal, be provided with an explanation, that, at the very least, allows him/her to discern the reason for refusal, without any question of DPA or GDPR being breached.

    Once an APA has been awarded, any application by the tenant to have this revised, must demonstrate credible grounds for doing so. For example, if the tenant claims his rent arrears are now cleared, enquiry should be made of the landlord to satisfy the DM, the tenant’s request has merit. Now this is not happening.
    All too often, payment is redirected back to delinquent tenants, purely at the bequest of the tenant, with no grounds being offered or demanded by DWP’s staff (e.g., material change in circumstances since APA was first agreed) only for the payment to be misused again.

    It would be mutually beneficial, if DWP could create a dedicated email and telephone line, which landlords could direct their enquiries to. The current arrangements are simply not working and are resulting in emails being sent to CRT, Service Managers & Neil Couling’s office, none of which helps anyone in the longer term. DWP’s ability to contact PRS landlords by phone or email is currently being underused, why, is not clear.

    If DWP addressed these failings in the current system, it would greatly assist both tenants & landlords and would assist compliance with pre-action protocols.”

    Now, if you phone the so-called dedicated line for landlords it doesn’t work – I tried it again this morning. Having done so, I then tried to phone DWP’s Director General’s office, which is a London number, only to discover I was speaking to a Scottish lady who couldn’t put me through to anyone!

    All she could suggest was to email the generic email correspondence@dwp.gov.uk which has a 20-day turnaround. The case I was phoning about has been outstanding since October, when my landlord client contacted the local JCP along with his vulnerable tenant, and despite subsequent emails to Practice Manager, Service Leader and Director General no one has even acknowledged the complaints.

    Despite what I’ve said, landlords & Letting Agents need to continue pursuing these issues, via MPs, MSPs, NRLA, ARLA, otherwise, there’s little likelihood of improvement anytime soon.

    Bill Irvine.

  18. I’m the same 20 years as a landlord, no evictions… Last 3 years 5 evictions due to UC hiding behind data protection and not wanting to make direct payments unless tenant agrees…. No more UC for me either unless they pay me the £10000 I’m owed plus eviction costs. Tenants buy new TV’s and motorbikes with my money…. I think not. This should be benefit fraud.

  19. Typical of a crappy system which is very biased againg the landlord. The goverment and councils and UC dept should be ashamed of themselves. They are a total waste of time. We are within a smidge of selling our properties because of this unfair system

  20. Having read some of these comments I get the impression that some of you think that you have to wait for 2 full months before you can claim UC direct (or issue S21 notices under non-Covid circumstances). This is not always the case. If their tenancy agreement states that rent is payable monthly IN ADVANCE they will be officially two months in arrears on the day after the 2nd months rent is due, eg: if rent is due on 1st of every month and they miss Januarys and Februarys rent, you can validly put your claim in for UC (or issue S21 notice) on the 2nd of February. You do not have to wait until the end of February. Its not much, but it gives you an early start on getting that UC paid direct!

  21. My grandfather was a successful landlord who never needed to go to court to evict his tenants.
    He had a gang of heavies who intimidated any non-paying tenants into leaving. Much more efficient than going to court.

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