Scotland’s leading landlords’ association, The SAL has called for the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid direct to landlords for all claimants
The SLA is Scotland’s largest landlord membership organisation in the private rented sector and has asked the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to private and social landlords for all Scottish claimants.
In giving his oral evidence to the social security committee of the Scottish Parliament, reported by Scottish Housing News, John Blackwood, chief executive of SAL, said the move will encourage landlords to provide homes to benefit recipients.
John Blackwood said that SAL believes this move would also increase the supply of housing, prevent rent arrears, help tackle homelessness and reduce the need for councils to provide temporary accommodation.
Currently, the Universal Credit regime limits direct payments to those tenants with what are defined as tier 1 or tier 2 vulnerabilities* such as addiction, mental health issues, bereavement or those not in education, employment or training.
In giving his evidence Mr Blackwood pointed out a number of other problems with Universal Credit which are leading to landlords avoiding renting to Universal Credit recipients. These would include:
- Poor response times from DWP
- Misleading or incorrect information being given to landlords and tenants
- Unclear payment schedules
These types of delays and confusions are leading to tenants building up significant rent arrears, and discouraging landlords from providing housing to Universal Credit recipients, he said.
Speaking after giving evidence to the committee, John Blackwood told Scottish Housing News:
“Private landlords in Scotland want to provide high quality accommodation to anyone who wants it, including those receiving Universal Credit. However, landlords are constantly frustrated and discouraged from doing so because of the uncertainty inherent in the current system.
“In addition to numerous administrative delays and confusion which see landlords and tenants receiving inaccurate or misleading information, the limitation that only some of those on Universal Credit have their housing element paid directly to their landlord, be that private or social, is a significant systematic flaw.
“We want to see changes made that would see the housing element paid directly to landlords in all instances. This would provide a degree of certainty and help prevent tenants getting into rent arrears, thus encouraging private landlords to continue to provide housing to those on Universal Credit.
“This increase in supply would help to tackle homelessness and reduce the pressure on councils to provide temporary accommodation which is sometimes of very poor quality. The committee seemed receptive to these ideas and arguments and I hope will recommend urgent action is taken.”
SAL’s written evidence to the social security committee can be seen here
*Vulnerability is generally defined as someone who is more likely than the ‘average’ person to suffer detriment or harm if they become homeless. Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive definition, as each case should be considered on its own merits, for the purpose of this Protocol the types of people who may be considered to be vulnerable can include:
- Families with children under 18 and pregnant women;
- 16-17 year olds;
- Households experiencing domestic violence and abuse;
- People with mental health problems;
- Older people;
- People with a physical disability;
- People with a learning difficulty;
- People with alcohol or substance misuse problems;
- Asylum seekers or refugees;
- Former rough sleepers;
- People with multiple problems e.g. mental health and alcohol problems.