products2Four in five landlords are unwilling to let properties to tenants who receive housing benefits because of changes to welfare payments and concerns about the new universal credit system.

The survey by found there has already been a sharp decline in the number of landlords offering homes to claimants.

A poll of more than 1,500 landlords around the country seen by The Guardian found that just 18 per cent currently had tenants on housing benefit in one or more of their properties, compared to a figure of a third when a similar survey was done two years ago.

Although improved economic circumstances and a fall in unemployment could have accounted for some of the drop, other results from the survey suggest that landlords are less willing to take on tenants who are claiming help to meet rent payments.

Almost six in 10 landlords (57 per cent) said they refused to accept anyone on benefits now, specifically stating “no housing benefit tenants” in their adverts.

Although some landlords do currently let to people receiving benefits, more than half said they would not take any more on after the roll-out of universal credit.

The single payment will replace separate allowances for housing and other living expenses and will be paid monthly rather than weekly.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom, said: “The 2008 move to stop landlords receiving rent payments direct – designed to give those on benefits greater responsibility for their finances – has had overwhelmingly negative and lasting repercussions for tenants on housing benefit.”

He added: “With rents rising and the welfare budget suffering from continued government cuts, the outlook for tenants reliant on housing benefit is getting bleaker.”

The SpareRoom survey found that the majority of landlords were unhappy with previous changes to the benefits system.

In 2008, the introduction of local housing allowance moved payments to tenants rather than landlords, unless a direct payment is requested, and 88 per cent of those questioned said this had been a bad thing.

Of those who are no longer happy to take tenants on benefits, 90 per cent said they had problems when they did so, including late payments and damage to property.

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