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Universal credit implications for landlords and tenants

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Many social housing organisations have called on the Government to review the universal credit scheme as recent statistics show that more than three quarters of tenants receiving universal credit are in rent arrears.

The Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) completed a survey of 3,000 tenants across the nation and found that 79 per cent of tenants receiving universal credit are in rent arrears. The survey showed a comparison to other tenants who are in receipt the old style housing benefit, of which only 31% are in arrears.

The main reason why tenants in receipt of universal credit are in arrears is due to the six week period before they receive their first payment of benefit. The average arrears for a tenant in receipt of universal credit is £321.05 whereas, the average arrears of those in receipt of housing benefit is £294.57.

Many experts believe that just twelve months on from the introduction of universal credit, there are more issues being faced than just rent arrears. There has also been a steep increase in demand for money and debt advice services, foodbanks and hardship funds.

If you are having difficulty with your universal credit application and fall into arrears because of this, your landlord may chose to start possession proceedings against you starting with sending you a notice. This could be either;

  1. Notice Requiring Possession (Section 21 Notice) 
  2. Notice Seeking Possession (Section 8 Notice)

Some tenants believe that being sent one of these notices means they must move out of their property by the date stated on the notice. This is not true. A notice is the first step a landlord must take to try to get a possession order against you.

When the date on the notice has passed, your landlord will then be allowed to apply to the Court to start a claim for possession of their property against you. If this happens, you will receive Court papers telling you about the claim.

Legal Aid is still available for this type of legal issue and we would be able to assist you with this. If you are in receipt of benefits or on a low income you may be able to get legal funding to help pay for a legal representative to help you.

If you receive a notice or court papers and you are unsure about what to do contact the office or us our online enquiry facility and a member of our team will contact you to explain how we can help.

By Jamie Gordon, Graduate Paralegal, housing department