Universal Credit: Private Rented Sector Evictions

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Lloyd Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 12:00 am, 21st May 2018

What assessment she has made of the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on the number of evictions in the private rented sector.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Housing benefit has been paid direct to tenants since 2008. Universal credit replicates that so we would not expect to see a change in landlord behaviour.

Photo of Stephen Lloyd Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am very disappointed with that answer because, having had meetings with a number of residents associations and landlords, I already know that the private sector is fairly loth to let houses to people on housing benefit. The same applies to universal credit, the reason being that the payment goes direct to the tenant. I urge the Government to at least have a default, if both sides agree, for the payments to be made to the landlord.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It is deeply disappointing when Members of this House trade their principles for perceived political advantage, as the hon. Gentleman seems to have done on universal credit, having of course previously been a strong supporter of the coalition Government’s reforms. He knows full well that direct payments to landlords are available. I have myself met the two most prominent residential landlord organisations very recently and, if he looked at the data, he would see that the proportion of working-age recipients of housing benefit and universal credit in the private rented sector seeking support has not really changed over the past 10 years.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It is reported that the Law Centres Network says cases are now common in which eviction proceedings come to court after the Department for Work and Pensions has failed to pay rent directly to the landlords of universal credit claimants, even though it says on a claimant’s journal account that a direct rent payment has been made. What action is DWP taking to address this issue as a matter of urgency?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As the hon. Lady will know, we have taken significant action to try to improve the situation upfront, not least by providing an additional two weeks of housing benefit for people transitioning to universal credit. People can receive a 100% advance and help with budgeting support, and of course a direct payment is available if landlord or tenant require it.