Universal Credit increasing fear of homelessness in St Albans

St Albans City & District Council offices, where Citizens Advice is based.

St Albans City & District Council offices, where Citizens Advice is based. - Credit: Archant

Citizens Advice says Universal Credit is making more St Albans people afraid of becoming homeless.

The bureau has had an increase in the number of people coming to them with queries around homelessness in the six months between April and September 2018.

Citizens Advice St Albans and District chief executive June Chapman said: “We are seeing more people coming to us with queries about the threat of homelessness than ever before.

“In many cases, these are single people, couples and families who are happy living in their current properties, but are being asked to leave by their landlords.

“This is causing a good deal of anxiety and stress because affordable housing is hard to find in the area.”

Citizens Advice says relationship breakdowns, including those involving domestic violence, caused one-third of actual and potential homelessness cases.

However, the biggest cause of threatened homelessness is tenants being told by their landlord to quit the property they are renting.

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June Chapman said: “Landlords give a variety of reasons for notifying tenants they will have to quit, ranging from complaints about the tenant’s behaviour, or rent arrears, through to a desire to sell the property.

“Among these will almost certainly be cases in which the landlord does not want someone who is receiving Universal Credit, but they might not give this as the reason.

“At the same time, we are seeing many people receiving Universal Credit who have built up rent arrears.

“These include people who have had to wait so long for their first payment they have not been able to pay their rent; people whose award is so low they cannot pay their rent and pay for other essentials; and people who have instructed the Department for Work and Pensions to pay their rent directly to their landlord and then discovered that nothing, or an insufficient amount, has been paid.

“Some of these people have been told by their landlord that they might have to quit if they do not pay off their arrears.

“Citizens Advice has called for improvements in the design and the delivery of Universal Credit before people begin to be moved from legacy benefits (such as Employment Support Allowance and Tax Credits) to Universal Credit.”