Advice provided by Scotland’s CAB network in relation to rent arrears has grown by over 40% since 2012, whilst debt-related issues experienced by CAB clients in Scotland have steadily declined over the same period. Given this long-term change, investigating the cause and consequences of rent arrears for CAB clients has been a policy priority for CAS.
Our findings, which we published in detail in October 2018, included that:
- The considerable growth in rent arrears as an area of advice has coincided closely with changes to the social security system, particularly the advent of welfare reform.
- Almost one-quarter of those living in rented accommodation have experienced rent arrears in the past five years, though CAB clients with rent arrears are more likely to be in part-time employment, unemployed, be a single person or lone parent, be aged 25-44 and live in 20% of the most deprived areas.
- The most common reasons for rent arrears are a benefits-related issue, loss of income, or unexpected costs. The most common ways of getting out of rent arrears are borrowing money from elsewhere (such as from friends and family, or on a credit card) or cutting back on essentials. Neither of these are particularly sustainable solutions, leading to debt elsewhere or potential health consequences respectively.
- During the past eighteen months, CAB clients’ rent arrears issues have predominantly been caused by them moving onto Universal Credit, and experiencing problems with the delivery of support to pay the rent through the new benefit.
- Evidence from Scotland’s CAB network and elsewhere indicates the incidence of rent arrears to be far higher amongst tenants receiving Universal Credit. Housing associations across the UK report that 73% of tenants on UC are in arrears, compared to 29% of all other tenants.