Housing benefit has been paid direct to tenants since 2008. Universal credit replicates that so we would not expect to see a change in landlord behaviour.
I am very disappointed with that answer because, having had meetings with a number of residents associations and landlords, I already know that the private sector is fairly loth to let houses to people on housing benefit. The same applies to universal credit, the reason being that the payment goes direct to the tenant. I urge the Government to at least have a default, if both sides agree, for the payments to be made to the landlord.
It is deeply disappointing when Members of this House trade their principles for perceived political advantage, as the hon. Gentleman seems to have done on universal credit, having of course previously been a strong supporter of the coalition Government’s reforms. He knows full well that direct payments to landlords are available. I have myself met the two most prominent residential landlord organisations very recently and, if he looked at the data, he would see that the proportion of working-age recipients of housing benefit and universal credit in the private rented sector seeking support has not really changed over the past 10 years.
It is reported that the Law Centres Network says cases are now common in which eviction proceedings come to court after the Department for Work and Pensions has failed to pay rent directly to the landlords of universal credit claimants, even though it says on a claimant’s journal account that a direct rent payment has been made. What action is DWP taking to address this issue as a matter of urgency?
As the hon. Lady will know, we have taken significant action to try to improve the situation upfront, not least by providing an additional two weeks of housing benefit for people transitioning to universal credit. People can receive a 100% advance and help with budgeting support, and of course a direct payment is available if landlord or tenant require it.