The housing data specialist has urged RPs to address the gap between housing benefit payments and ‘rent weeks’ this year

Housemark has warned that social landlords need to work with tenants to address the mismatch between housing benefit payments and rents this year.

Jonathan Cox - Housemark 2023 - Large

Source: Housemark

Jonathan Cox, director of data and business intelligence at Housemark says landlords need to monitor the impact of circumstances that will push tenants into debt and impact rent collection.

The housing data and insight company has projected a potential sector-wide increase in rent arrears of £220m as a result of this mismatch.

Housemark, which is jointly owned by the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing, has indicated that numerous landlords and housing sector trade bodies have highlighted that tenants on Universal Credit will have to cover one week’s rent from alternative income sources this year.

Due to the way dates fall in the calendar, the current financial year will have 53 ‘rent weeks,’ while Universal Credit housing benefit payments will cover only 52 weeks.

Jonathan Cox, director of data and business intelligence at Housemark, said: “This 53-week problem comes at the worst possible time for tenants, as households continue to face challenges due to the cost-of-living crisis”.

He added that Housemark’s Pulse Survey from last month revealed that fuel poverty is impacting gas servicing, and support agencies are reporting record demand despite “depleted budgets and resources”.

Cox continued: “While the social housing sector is generally very good at managing and collecting rent arrears, landlords need to continue to monitor the impact of policies, events and circumstances that will push tenants into debt and adversely impact income management.”

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The most recent monthly Pulse report also revealed that a decrease in eviction rates from 0.42% in 2018/19 to 0.08% in 2022/23 has corresponded with an increase in rent arrears from 2.47% to 3.35% during the same period.

This translates to approximately 17,000 fewer evictions annually, with almost no evictions recorded at the height of the pandemic in 2020/21.

The latest Pulse survey collected and analysed data from 149 UK social landlords over April 2024.

The survey also revealed that the trend of landlords delivering tenant contact by digital means has plateaued at around 30% over the past 12 months.

Housemark has indicated that this is due to landlords finding that multi-channel communications based on tenant preferences offer better tenant satisfaction outcomes.

The report also identified that service improvements resulting in an immediate increase in tenant satisfaction as measured by a ‘transactional’ survey undertaken at the time, can take up to 18 months to be reflected in tenant perception surveys.

Perception surveys look at customer experience and satisfaction over a longer period of time. The Tenant Satisfaction Measures now required by the Regulator of Social Housing focus on data from perception surveys.

Housemark data shows a gap of around 10 percentage points between tenant satisfaction recorded through transaction surveys compared to perception surveys. The most recent data for April 2024 is 87% versus 77% respectively.