The number of tenants who receive the new Universal Credit benefit and therefore not entitled to Housing Benefit (HB) is steadily increasing. If you are a landlord or your work involves giving advice / support to tenants who might receive UC, you need to be aware of the following:
- UC is being introduced in stages and initially in Sandwell, only people under 25 were likely to go onto UC. This no longer applies and potentially anyone under retirement age who doesn’t have dependent children, can now go onto UC.
- We have been getting queries from landlords chasing rent for tenants they think are on HB, who actually receive UC. So the tenant is no longer our customer and we’re not the relevant people to talk to. Before contacting us – check with the tenant which benefit they are claiming. If it’s UC, we can’t help. (Although there is an exception to this for some specialist supported housing). Don’t forget though, UC claimants should still apply to us if they want help with Council Tax Reduction.
- We have seen a number of UC claims where the housing cost element (which replaces Housing Benefit) has been awarded from a later date than the other elements of UC. In other words – UC has been paid, but without the rent money, which doesn’t get backdated. We don’t know why this is and I have to stress this is speculation only, but possible causes are: Tenants are failing to provide proof of rent, such as a tenancy agreement when asked. Or they are simply not giving the DWP the right information when making their claims and clearly identifying that they have a rent liability. It’s essential that anyone claiming UC makes sure the DWP get the right information and supporting evidence at the right time.
- We often see cases where we have paid HB for a period that’s later covered by UC. As you can’t receive both benefits at the same time – the HB is treated as an overpayment which the DWP recover by making a deduction from UC. If housing costs aren’t awarded from the start of the UC claim, (as above) – this can have a significant impact on the amount of UC paid at the start of the claim.
You can find more general information about UC on the main government website gov.uk and of course, we will continue to update you about local changes.