Getting it right, or losing money

You might have seen our latest newsletter which was posted on the blog last week.

If you didn’t, I think it’s worth a read (though I did write it myself!) It had one article in particular about Universal Credit (UC) that I want to pick up on as it deals with how some tenants lose benefit for completely avoidable reasons.

If you need to claim (UC), with its Housing Element to cover your rent – you apply on the DWP’s online form. I’ve had a go myself, it’s straightforward enough. But do be aware of the following.

The form asks “Do you pay rent or eligible service charges to live in your home,” (see screen-shot below).

This seems a simple question, but we know some tenants are getting it wrong. We believe it’s where they have previously had their rent paid through Housing Benefit and think the question is asking whether they physically make rent payments themselves.

So they answer “no.”

But the question is actually about whether or not you have a liability to pay rent – not the practical arrangements of where the payments come from. If you answer this question incorrectly, there can be real consequences.

You won’t be asked any further questions about your housing and although you might still be awarded the personal elements of UC you will not be assessed for or awarded the Housing Cost Elements.

To put it simply – you won’t get any rent money. So it’s essential that people get this question right.

They must also make sure that they provide proof of rent (normally their tenancy agreement) if the DWP ask for it; or again they could lose rent money.
UC claimants should also be encouraged to make sure that they contact us (the council) to claim Council Tax Reduction (CTR).

Many UC claimants will still be used to old system where their claim for CTR was wrapped up with their Housing Benefit and they didn’t need to make a specific application for it.

They do now though. CTR is not included in the UC claim and if you want help with your Council Tax bill, you have to apply to us.

If you are a landlord reading this – you might think that this last point is none of your concern.

It’s the tenant’s responsibility, not yours to sort out their own Council Tax. But if you do have a tenant who is struggling financially, the more help they get, the less likely they are to go into rent arrears.

If you have tenants on UC or a general interest in the subject – there is plenty of information about it on gov.uk but we will be posting more on UC, especially around contact arrangements for landlords and rent arrears shortly.

Oliver

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