London councils should follow Camden’s lead and refuse to evict tenants hit by universal credit

Oct 31, 2018 | News

London councils should follow Camden’s lead and refuse to evict tenants hit by universal credit

London Renters Union, a new campaigning union for renters in the capital, has called on London councils not to evict anyone who falls into rent arrears as a result of universal credit. The call came after Camden Council announced a “no evictions” policy for social tenants financially affected by the transition to universal credit.

Universal credit has been linked to rent arrears of up to five times the levels of the previous benefits system, with an average benefit application taking five weeks to process and leading to a reduction in housing payment.

London Renters Union member Duncan Michie, from Camden, said: “No one should have to face eviction and homelessness simply due to delays in processing benefits, which is something completely outside a tenant’s control. We welcome Camden Council’s commitment not to evict any of their tenants who fall into rent arrears as a result of the new benefits system. We call on London councils to follow Camden’s example and protect any social tenants affected by the accelerated roll-out of universal credit.

“Universal credit is an unfolding disaster for both private and social renters. It is a cruel change to the benefit system that has already been shown to cause dire poverty and leaves private renters even more at the mercy of landlords and an extortionate private rental market. Possibly thousands of people in the capital are being left without enough money to pay for even the cheapest private rents and therefore at risk of homelessness through either a Section 21 or Section 8 eviction notice.

“We need urgent action by government to protect private renters made vulnerable by the new benefits system. The government could protect those on the lowest incomes by introducing basic reforms to the private rental market,  such as rent controls or at the very least, by ending Section 21.”

Research shows that changes to the benefits system are causing poverty and precariousness among private renters on low incomes. Many people are being left without income to pay for food and rent due to payment delays as a result of the introduction of universal credit. Housing payment reductions, deductions and sanctions imposed on those receiving universal credit mean renters are more likely to fall into arrears or face a shortfall in rent.

Evictions in the private rented sector have been rising and loss of tenancy through a Section 21 “no fault” eviction notice is now the leading cause of homelessness. According to Landlord Action, private landlords are using both Section 8 and Section 21 eviction notices to evict tenants in rent arrears.

A shortage of social housing stock in the capital means millions of people are stuck in the private rented sector, paying unaffordably high rents and vulnerable to eviction and homelessness.

The announcement by Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, followed a council motion put forward by local Labour Party activists and trade unionists. A member of London Renters Union moved an amendment calling on Camden Council not to evict anyone with rent arrears due to universal credit.  

London Renters Union launched city-wide this summer so that the capital’s renters can support each other, stand up to landlords and win longer tenancies and renters rights, and homes for people not profit. London Renters Union is campaigning to #endSection21 evictions with Generation Rent, New Economics Foundation and Acorn. The Labour party and a number of Labour councils have pledged their support for the abolition of Section 21 evictions.

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