Good tenants don’t become bad tenants overnight and, where the cause of their delay or failure to pay rent is a genuine lack of cash, landlords should help them access the Universal Credit system. Here’s a handy guide from expert Bill Irvine.
The Chancellor’s recently announced economic measures will take some time to fully implement and, in the meantime, people need to find some sources of advice and financial help.
I don’t expect landlords to fulfil that role or try to be benefit experts. The good news is that you’ll find there are various central and local governmental bodies that can provide help, including:
- Coronavirus General site
- Statutory Sick Pay
- “New Style” Job Seekers Allowance (based on NI contributions)
- Universal Credit, including assistance with rent and advance payments
- Housing Benefit – try your local council and ask about Local Housing Allowance
- Council Tax Reduction – again, your local council.
In addition, to Citizens Advice, you’ll find there are many Welfare Rights, Money Advice, Debt Advice, Financial Inclusion services provided by Housing Associations, Voluntary organisation and Church groups. Services are usually of a very high standard and free to users.
If you’re looking for not only advice but help with form filling, querying and pursuing things with DWP or Councils, try calling your local CAB and they’ll point you in the right direction. Otherwise, simply Google “benefits advice” and post code.
Universal Credit & Advance Payments
Universal Credit will become the most critically important benefit for all those low paid, or part-time or self-employed workers who are forced to self-isolate for weeks or months or for those who have their hours reduced or are laid off and who can’t access funds quickly.
Other benefits like Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), JSA & ESA (Contribution based) will play a part as well, but none of these provide enough sums to cover rental costs in all new claims.
UC can be claimed, quite simply, online, which is a real bonus, when claimants can’t possibly attend Jobcentres. I foresee, DWP making the online claim enough to make an award, without many of the usual conditions of entitlement (e.g. Claimant Commitment, which would normally involve a face-to-face meeting or seeking jobs on internet).
If DWP wishes to confirm the rental costs, it can email or write to you, as landlord, to certify the rental charge and size of accommodation and/or allow the tenant to upload the information on their online journal.
It could also agree to relax the usual Tier 1 factors (safeguarding the rent) by paying you the “housing costs” to avoid rental loss, arrears and threats of eviction. That’s something that would greatly assist both tenant & landlord and can be achieved by a simple instruction to DWP staff to carry this out without the need for new legislation.
The Government & NRLA have underlined the importance of engaging and trying to assist your tenants and being realistic in your expectations. If you do that, you’re more likely to succeed in protecting both your own and your tenants’ interests. Pre-action protocols also expect you to assist your tenant access these various forms of help, before acting to pursue recovery of the debt & property.
Making a UC claim – first step in the process – https://www.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/postcode-checker
Plus, some of the latest information and advice about how to secure “payment direct” or “Managed Payment to Landlord” as DWP refers to it.
- New APA procedure https://directpayment.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/
- Direct Payments of housing costs or Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) see below
- Recommended paragraph to include when submitting UC 47 (Non-secure) application to receive payment direct.
“Please find attached an application for an Alternative Payment Arrangements, based on Tier 1 criteria, including the necessary supporting evidence. Please ensure that payment of the “housing costs” element of the UC award is suspended immediately and remains so until a decision is made on the merits of this application, as this would ensure public funds are not misused. This request is based on Regulations 44 (2) (ii) & 58 (1) of the Universal Credit (Claims & Payments) Regulations, 2013.
- DWP’s Advice to Decision Maker’s Guide A4320 confirms the ability to suspend the “housing costs element” in this way”.
- You can chase up APA requests by contacting your tenant’s Case Manager at a dedicated line 0800 328 5644
- If that doesn’t produce the desired result, make a 1st stage complaint to your local DWP District Manager. See my members’ bulletin http://universalcreditadvice.com/housing-associations/2016/09/universal-credit—your-regional-complaint-resolution-teams-explained
Look out, for updates as well from the NRLA (RLA) website https://www.rla.org.uk as it has very strong links with DWP, including Ministers.
For more info contact Bill Irvin UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd www.ucadvice.co.uk Tel: 07733 080 389