Tenant News

Citizens Advice Scotland Report Shows Universal Credit to Blame for Rising Rent Arrears

Emily Morley - October 22, 2018

There has been a noticeable rise in advice being sought in regards to rent arrears over the past five years, a new report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) shows.

This increase of 47% is thought to be primarily down to the rollout of Universal Credit.

Last week, the CAS published a paper, in which it states that the changes to the social security system is to blame for this rise in tenants finding themselves unable to make rent payments.

According to this report, benefits, a loss of income or unexpected costs are thought to be one of the most common issues contributing to rent arrear problems. In particular, it found that the occurrence of rent arrears was significantly higher among tenants receiving Universal Credit.

The overall findings of the report include:

  • A considerable growth in advice being sought for rent arrears has closely coincided with changes to the social security system
  • Almost 25% of those who live in rented accommodation have experienced rent arrears in the previous five years
  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) clients with rent arrears are more likely to be in part-time employment, unemployed, living as a single person or lone parent, aged 25-44 and live in the 20% most deprived areas
  • The most common reasons for rent arrears have been found to be related to either benefits, loss of income or unexpected costs
  • Borrowing money from else where, such as from friends, family or on a credit card, or cutting back on essentials, are the most common ways of getting out of rent arrears. However, neither of these are a sustainable solution
  • Over the previous 18 months, the rent area issues of CAB clients have been mostly caused by their transition to Universal Credit, as they have experienced problems with the delivery of support to pay rent through this new scheme
  • There has been evidence provided from Scotland’s CAB network and elsewhere, showing that the incidence of rent arrears is much higher amongst tenants receiving Universal Credit.
  • Various UK housing associations have reported that 73% of tenants on Universal Credit are in arrears, compared to 29% of others

CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said: “The rise in rent arrears is one of the most worrying trends we see across the Citizens Advice Bureau network at the moment.

“While there are a number of factors driving this, we have no doubt that the flaws in Universal Credit are one of the main ones. For the past 18 months we have been calling for a halt and fix to Universal Credit.

“We have set out again today the key flaws that need to be addressed, including reducing the waiting period before payment, cutting out processing delays and reducing deductions. These are relatively simple changes that could make a huge difference to millions of people.”