The Government is currently looking closely at discriminatory policies which affect those needing to be housed but are reliant either fully or partially on benefits to be able to afford to do so.
The All Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee is looking at not just landlords but also mortgage providers, insurance providers and policies. They are looking specifically at whether policies and agreements prohibit landlords renting to claimants of benefits.
In 2017-18 there were 889,000 households that required housing benefit to pay their rent; the reliance on housing benefit affects women and those with disabilities disproportionately.
The trouble with Universal Credit is that, unlike its predecessor housing benefit, it is difficult to arrange the payment to go directly to the landlord, so the payment goes directly to the tenant who has responsibility for making the payment to the landlord for rent.
If the tenant, then fails to make a rental payment, the landlord is left in a precarious situation. If a tenant is struggling with rental arrears there is the option to request that direct payments are made, this is called an Alternative Payment Arrangement. This kind of arrangement can be requested by the claimant or the landlord. If it is being requested by the landlord then certain criteria will need to be met: you can find out about this here.
The major issue for all involved is that landlords who need rental payments to be made on time and for the full amount owed, are likely to see anyone on benefits as a riskier type of tenant, with evidence to support this coming directly from the Government statistics on possession claims.
In October to December 2018, the majority (62%) (17,823) of all landlord possession claims were social landlord claims, 18% (5,265) were accelerated claims and 20% (5,702) were private landlord claims. The numbers speak for themselves.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the committee and review the answers given, especially from commercial stakeholders and landlords and seeing what will happen as the next steps.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance