You probably already know that when it gets here, the new Universal Credit (UC) benefit will mean the end of Housing Benefit (HB) in its current form. Instead of HB, claimants will be able to claim a ‘Housing Costs’ element in their UC, so that rent money goes to the tenant who will be responsible for keeping up to date with their own rent. This is irrespective of whether it’s a privately rented, council or Housing Association home.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) accept that some tenants will have difficulty managing money or will simply not pay their rent. When this happens, landlords can apply to have the housing element paid directly and there is an online form to request this on gov.uk.
Its worth having a look at this to give you an idea of the sort of information the DWP will expect you to provide. One major feature is that it looks as if you will also be able to use it to not just request that future payments of housing costs come direct to you, but also to ask for pre-existing arrears to be recovered by deductions made from the rest of the tenant’s benefit. I must stress that at this stage we will still don’t have any detail about how this will work in practice, or what criteria the DWP might look at before considering this option. All I can say for now is ‘watch this space.’ We will try and keep you updated, as and when we can. If you get the chance though, do have a look at the UC pages on gov.uk. Apart from the arrears form, you will find a useful document called ‘Universal Credit and Rented Housing: Frequently Asked Questions.‘
I can’t promise that this will be an exciting read, but it does link to other useful documents and this is an issue that any landlord who has, or who may in the future have, tenants on benefits, really does need to keep up to speed with.