A change of gear for Universal Credit


If you have seen our earlier blogs – we have been quite clear that Universal Credit was being rolled out in full from November 2018 across Sandwell. This is what we (the council) have been told ourselves.

However recent government announcements have changed the situation and it looks as if the mass conversion of existing benefit cases has been delayed. Instead – the government will be piloting a trial conversion of only ten thousand benefit cases – rather than several million.

This means that most people who currently receive Housing Benefit will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. So – things seem to have been slowed down substantially. However – people who make brand new claims or who move from one local authority area to another are likely to go onto Universal Credit.

It’s certainly not the best when we can’t give you very clear advice or have to change something we have already told you – and this has certainly happened before with Universal Credit – so apologies. We try though to let you know, whatever we know. We will post more information as and when we get it.



Future gazing . . . Landlords and 2019

Future gazing

There’s an interesting article here in the Daily Mail on changes for landlords that are likely in 2019. .

Some of it is speculation only – and I’ll also stick in our standard disclaimer that we obviously can’t guarantee the accuracy of anything in the press, but that said, the article is worth a look.

I’ll just bullet point the subjects it covers – please read it for yourself if interested, but do have a look if you can; there’s some important stuff.

• Possible introduction of minimum three year tenancies
• Caps on deposits
• Possible rent controls (for London)
• The tenant fees bill
• Buy-to-let mortgage rates
• Client money protection


HMO licensing

Merry Christmas

This blog has two halves.

A couple of years ago, I combined the Christmas message from the blog, with some reminders about Income Tax; which probably made me look like the most miserable, Grinch-like council officer in the country. This year, I’m going one better. It’s Christmas plus a warning on civil penalties.

I’ll do the nasty bit first.

We have been issuing warnings about the new regulations on HMO licensing for quite some time. If you don’t have a licence where one is required – you can face penalties up to £30,000. Some councils are ahead of Sandwell on this and have already taken some forceful action with very expensive consequences for the landlords concerned. We intend to catch up.

Of course, most landlords do the right thing, but we still have our share of non-compliers who have had enough chances to apply for a licence. So from now on – we are actively seeking out landlords breaking the law and we will take full action to impose penalties. Here’s a reminder; the penalties are up to £30,000and a potential criminal record and just to make the message stick – a rent repayment order on top so that tenants get refunded the rent they have already paid.

Any landlord still needing a licence should contact us immediately. This is not a formal promise, but we are very unlikely to take action against someone who comes forward and identifies themselves to us, before we find them. So it’s not too late to avoid sanctions. But if we catch a landlord before they come to us – they should expect the full penalties to be applied. Anyone trying to evade detection, should be aware that councils have a great deal of information about housing stock in their areas and various ways of checking on who lives where.

We won’t apologise for enforcing the law. Unlicensed HMOs avoid the inspections and checks needed to make tenants safe and this council takes very seriously its obligations to those tenants.

Now I’ll do the nicer bit . . .

Unfortunately a lot of posts on this blog are about unpleasant subjects or things that can go wrong. We also have to put out lots of posts about enforcement actions of one sort or another (as above) which can make it look as if all do is give bad news and tell people off. But the subjects we have to cover in the blog – are very often things we are obliged to cover. They don’t reflect the fact that Sandwell actually has a great many good or even excellent landlords and agents, providing quality homes for their tenants.

We have some really good working relationships with those landlords and on a more personal level – we – that’s both of your blog editors – Oliver and Liz – are very grateful for the understanding landlords show when we deal with difficult issues and the support and cooperation we so often receive.

So on that note, Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Oliver Wright and Liz Mooney

Council closure at Christmas


Over Christmas we will be close as follows:

Monday 24th December 2018 – CLOSED

Tuesday 25th December 2018 – CLOSED

Wednesday 26th December 2018 – CLOSED

Thursday 27th December 2018 – CLOSED

Friday 28th December 2018 – CLOSED

Monday 31st December 2018 – Normal Service

Tuesday 1st January 2019 – CLOSED

Wednesday 2nd January 2019 – Normal Service