The government has issued a new comprehensive guide to Universal Credit (UC) as it applies to rented housing, specifically for landlords.
The guide provides private and social housing landlords with detailed information about how to deal with Universal Credit payments. It is designed give landlords an understanding of how they can help their tenants prepare for UC:
- how housing payments are calculated
- the move on to the single Universal Credit benefit payment system
- making payments of their rent to their landlord themselves
Given all the controversy around UC, direct payments, and possible rent arrears, it is in all landlords’ with benefit tenants best interests to ensure that they understand the system and that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Tenants receiving benefits through the new Universal Credit system receive one single payment, rolling-up up to six separate benefits into the one payment. It is also central tenet of the UK Housing benefit system that payments are made to the tenant in the first instance, making them responsible citizens and for their own payments for rent and other necessities.
Landlords who rent to tenants in receipt of benefits will benefit from the guide because sooner or later they will be involved with UC. Even those landlords who don’t initially let to tenants on benefits can become involved if one of their tenants needs to claim for one reason or another, redundancy or job loss for example.
The guide explains how to monitor the important trigger points, and how to deal with problems which can arise with payments, interventions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and recovery of rent arrears if they should occur.
All Universal Credit claimants have an online UC account to manage their claim, and they should have access to a “work coach” should they find they are struggling to make payments. They may just need help managing and budgeting their finances, but the guide helps by explaining how landlords can go about getting an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) set-up. These are payments made direct to them, if all else fails.
The most common problem for landlords with UC is when tenants experience difficulties managing their single monthly payment and making sure the rent element is split-off, with any top-up if needed, and paid regularly to their landlord.
Where the tenant does get into difficulty paying their rent, the claimant, their Work Coach, Case Manager or their landlord can then apply for the Alternative Payment Arrangement and (APA) Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL) scheme, which will be considered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on a case by case basis.
An APA can in some circumstances apply from day 1, or at any point throughout the UC claim for those claimants who are not yet in rent arrears but who may benefit in other ways from an APA. An APA can also include, a more frequent than monthly payment or a split payment of an award between partners.
The amount of any managed payment the landlord receives can vary from month to month depending on the claimant’s UC award, usually up to a maximum value of the eligible housing costs.
See the guide for full details here