If you were about to tell a tenant or client to go and make a claim for Universal Credit – please read this first. Apologies as this is a little fiddly, but might be important.
First, please remember that there are currently two main categories for UC claims. ‘Full Service’ and ‘Live Service.’ Each applies in different areas – it’s a bit of a patchwork and it comes down to post-codes. So parts of one local authority will come under one category and neighbouring parts will come under the other. (It’s never simple!)
If you’re in a full service area, from January 2018 you can no longer (certain very small exceptions apply) make claims for the old style ‘legacy’ benefits like Housing Benefit or Job Seekers Allowance (IB). Instead – more or less anyone who wants to make a new benefit claim goes straight onto UC.
Where you don’t have a ‘full service,’ UC claims are assessed as ‘live service.’ There are various technical differences between the two categories and only certain types of person have been put onto ‘live service’ UC in the areas where it applies. If you are not in one of these categories – you should continue to claim the old style benefits. Most of Sandwell (not quite all) currently comes under ‘live service. ’ The long term goal is of course that all areas eventually move over to live service. However, to support a ‘smooth transition’ to full service, the DWP will stop taking live service claims. (Although any claim set up on a live service basis will continue uninterrupted).
So – if not on UC already – most Sandwell residents cannot now claim UC until we see the complete roll-out to full service. These claimants should continue to claim Housing Benefit or other legacy benefits if necessary. Which leads to the next point; that originally scheduled for July 2018 – the transition from live to full in Sandwell will now happen in November 2018. Other parts of the country will have similar delays. If you have tenants or clients in areas apart from Sandwell – you can check the UC status and expected service changes on gov.uk.
For more information please see the Department for Work and Pensions bulletin here
A very quick post on Universal credit. If your tenants have made a new claim for Universal Credit and are having financial difficulties while waiting for their first payment to arrive – make sure they are aware that can apply for an advance payment. The Department of Work and Pensions have just updated the guidance that’s available on the subject – please see here on gov.uk.
In the last few weeks I’ve been visiting local Job Centres and meeting frontline staff dealing with Universal Credit claims. They all assure me that applications for advance payments can be processed very quickly and they would all encourage their clients (your tenants) to apply for one if needed.
The DWP have just updated their guidance for landlords (both private and social) on Universal Credit – including the key issues of getting rent payments direct and the recovery of arrears.
It’s probably not realistic to try and do a snappy summary for you – but if you do have, or are likely to have tenants who claim UC, please have a look.
You can find the guidance here.
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:
Revised UC47 rent arrears APA request form and process improvements vfin….
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.