The changeover to the new combined benefit, Universal Credit (UC)which can include an element for housing costs is continuing. Meaning more people are receiving help towards their rent through UC, rather than the old Housing Benefit.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who are responsible for UC have been looking again at landlord concerns around tenants not using the money meant for housing costs, to pay their rent. How do landlords report that there is a problem? Can they get the rent money safely paid to themselves and can anything be done to clear arrears that have already built up?
These issues have always been recognised by UC rules. There is the facility for landlords to request that future payments are made to the landlord, if the tenant goes into rent arrears. Further, as a separate issue, landlords can also request that deductions are made from the other elements of the tenant’s UC to pay off any arrears that have already built up. Not something you could do under the old Housing Benefit rules, so this represents a real plus for landlords.
But following feedback and real experience about how these rules are working in practice, the DWP have been adding some improvements to the process for reporting problems. In particular, the form used for this has been redesigned. It allows for more information to be provided and includes space for free text, allowing for extra detail about anything that might be relevant. Previously, you could only return the form to the DWP by secure email, but you can now do this through an ordinary non-secure email account or by post. The DWP have also issued guidance on the types of claimants that they consider to be particularly vulnerable and where that vulnerability will be a factor in making decisions to pay the landlord direct. The full information from the DWP is either in (or hyper-linked to, from) the document below:
If you are a landlord with tenants either claiming or likely to claim UC, I would strongly recommend that you download or save a link to this.
We’ll be posting more information on landlords, housing costs and UC as and when it becomes available, so please watch this space.