Law firm Winckworth Sherwood, whose clients include over 200 social housing providers, house builders and funders, reported that even tenants with little or no history of rent arrears could find themselves in arrears by an average of £180 after the introduction of universal credit.
Nikki Lynds-Xavier, a partner in Winckworth Sherwood’s housing management team said, “In a universal credit pilot project involving around 2,000 tenants in the London Borough of Southwark, tenants who started the pilot with no rent arrears found themselves on average £180 in debt at the end of the pilot.”
The pilot project found that only 60 per cent of tenants moved onto universal credit successfully, with 40 per cent failing to manage their monthly budgets. 11 per cent refused to take part or were unable to engage with the local authority, and 14 per cent were later considered too vulnerable to take part.
Lynds-Xavier said, “Further small-scale pilots have shown that under the new benefits system, housing officers have to make more than 40 visits in each case when chasing rent arrears, compared with just six under the current system.”