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Supporting Vulnerable Tenants

Making welfare work



Increasing numbers of tenants in receipt of benefits now rely on the private rented sector for a place to live. Despite this, changes to the benefits system have reduced the likelihood of landlords renting out to vulnerable tenants. RLA research has shown that Universal Credit is causing rent arrears while preventing landlords from receiving direct payments. At the same time, the Local Housing Allowance Cap has stopped housing payments reflecting local rents in the area.

With Universal Credit now rolled out to most claimants, the flaws in the system are putting more vulnerable tenants in jeopardy than ever before. A great deal needs to be done to improve the system to ensure that landlords can feel confident providing homes to vulnerable tenants.


  • Improve Universal Credit so it works for landlords and tenants by identifying at risk claimants and supporting them properly
  • Allow landlords to discuss a tenant's claim where the rent has not been paid
  • Remove the Local Housing Allowance Cap so vulnerable tenants can afford to rent out properties in their local area


The systems around Universal Credit are failing to protect vulnerable tenants. Alternative payment arrangements (APA) which would allow landlords to be directly paid are difficult to access. Job coaches are not identifying vulnerable tenants so that APA is arranged at the point the claim is made.

It is also incredibly difficult for landlords to communicate with the DWP where Universal Credit payments are not made. Data sharing limitations mean landlords can only discuss a claim once over the phone before their permission to discuss it is revoked. It is little wonder then that payments often continue to the tenant even where they are in 2 months arrears and the landlord has applied for direct payments.

Where these inefficiencies result in malpractice, there is also evidence to suggest that the courts are not providing compensation to landlords.

At the local level, the cap on housing payments has resulted in a shrinking of housing stock available to tenants in receipt of benefits. While local authorities offer a rent guarantee scheme that provides landlords with guaranteed rent if the rent matches the housing rate, more needs to be done to promote this and many landlords cannot access it.

It is little surprise then that more and more landlords are unwilling to rent out to vulnerable tenants. Without reliable payments that reflect the rent in their area this problem is likely to grow worse.

Research Provided by RLA PEARL. See more

Landlords with UC claimants who had gone into arrears
Landlords who were unwilling to rent out to UC claimants
Average amount of rent arrears owed to landlord by UC claimant

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The RLA have been working hard to represent the interests of landlords who rent to tenants in receipt of benefits and have had many campaign successes to date including:

  • The RLA successfully called for a change in the rules so that a history of rent arrears becomes a Tier 1 reason for direct payment of housing costs to landlords. Rent arrears are now considered as a Tier 2 reason for direct payments.
  • The RLA also called for an improvement of the availability of advance payments of UC to tenants with the current provision now allowing 100% advance payments to be repaid over a twelve-month period.
  • Thanks partly to the RLAs lobbying, landlords can now make APA applications can now be made online, which has reduced waiting times and improved efficiency.
  • Improved communication between landlords and the DWP with landlords now having the ability to speak directly to their tenants case manager.


The RLA recognises that Universal Credit is a constantly changing system and landlords need to be able to navigate this system as best they can. With that in miond we provide a number of guides and services for members -

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