MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, Stephen Lloyd secures a debate last week on the impact Universal Credit is having on the private rental sector.
This is an issue I tried to address when I was last your MP. The then Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, was insistent UC tenants should receive their housing benefit direct and, in theory, they’d then pass the housing benefit onto the landlords themselves. I saw all those years ago this would lead to major problems - particularly in the private sector where, frankly, many landlords already don’t like letting to tenants on benefit and that this stipulation could kill the market stone dead. With 1.2m tenants in the private sector on benefit across the UK many of which are on automatic payments to landlords, as part of the previous benefits regime, and all of whom over the next few years will be moved to UC. So you can understand where I’ve been coming from!
On my return to parliament I saw immediately that I’d been proved right and landlords 'were' refusing to take UC tenants as all too often either the money wasn’t being paid over or there were long delays. So I ramped up my opposition again straight away, joined by many others including a number of the landlord trade associations all of whom I met soon after the election. They told me clearly what was happening on the front-line and it wasn’t pretty. I raised these concerns in the Chamber, by letter and generally lobbied as hard as I could for the government to finally see sense. Then, credit where it is due, they finally began to acknowledge what we’d been telling them - in my case for years - and did a U-turn announcing in the recent budget that it would now be possible for landlords to receive money direct on behalf of their UC tenants if they were on automatic payments under the old benefit system. There are still too many caveats though so I aim to keep pushing to get to where I believe the policy really should be; an automatic default payment to private landlords for anyone on UC. In the debate this week I was, unusually, also supported by three conservative MPs so I am hopeful we will win this one. Not least as it’s common sense.
Click the image below to view Stephen's speech in the debate.