Is Universal Credit leading to rent arrears?

Published: 11th Oct 2017

In brief

Claim

Half of all council tenants on Universal Credit are at least a month in arrears in their rent.

Conclusion

This refers to 105 councils who responded to freedom of information requests. We haven’t seen the data behind it and don’t know what the picture is in the rest of the UK.

“Half of all council tenants on Universal Credit are at least a month in arrears in their rent.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 11 October 2017

This figure refers to around 105 UK councils and comes from freedom of information requests made by the Observer. We don’t know what the case is for the rest of the country.

The Observer reported that half of all council tenants on Universal Credit, in 105 councils, are at least a month behind on rent. 30% are two months behind. We’ve asked the Observer for more information on this.

We can’t say if this picture is the same for the country as a whole and not all councils in the UK have rolled out Universal Credit yet.

Universal Credit is replacing several benefits, including Housing Benefit, over the next few years.

It is paid once a month in England and Wales and there is a five to six week waiting period for the first payment. It can be paid every two weeks in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Universal Credit is also paid directly to the claimant, while Housing Benefit goes directly to the claimants’ landlord if they live in council houses.

In the 105 councils responding to the requests from the Observer, those on Housing Benefit were significantly less affected by rent arrears. 10% of council tenants receiving Housing Benefit rather than Universal Credit are a month behind, and less than 5% two months behind, according to the Observer.

A minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, Caroline Dinenage, said in November that "The Department for Work and Pensions is currently undertaking work to investigate the reality of rent arrears in universal credit. It aims to understand the true level of rent arrears for tenants, what is causing them, and any impacts universal credit may be having."

Correction 13 October 2017

We corrected this piece to say that Universal Credit can also be paid every two weeks in Scotland.

Update 16 November 2017

We updated this piece to include the DWP's statement that it was looking into the issue of rent arrears and Universal Credit.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of Prime Minister's Questions. Read the roundup.


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