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Landlords Warned To Get Ready For Universal Credit

Landlords Warned To Get Ready For Universal Credit  Chaos!

National Universal Credit Roll-Out
Starts February 2015 

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith surprised commentators with an announcement that Universal Credit (UC) will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities in the UK by February 2015 following the apparent success of the pilot scheme that was originally trialled in the North West.

Many Universal Credit detractors predicted that nothing significant would happen, before next year’s General Election, however, Iain Duncan Smith stunned everyone by announcing that Universal Credit will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities across the country, starting February 2015.

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What Lord Freud Had Say To The RLA

What Lord Freud Had Say To The RLA

Welfare Reform Minister Speaks Out On Universal Credit

Controversial welfare reform minister Lord Freud has spoken exclusively to Residential Property Investor magazine, published by the Residential Landlords Association.

Universal Credit was originally intended to be a fundamental reordering of the UK’s welfare and state benefit system, however when policy guidelines were announced, the reforms dealt private rental sector landlords a cruel blow, as it was decreed that landlords with tenants claiming local housing allowance (LHA) would no longer receive direct payments, even if they believed that the tenant was in an extremely vulnerable position.

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Government Offers Direct Payment Guarantee For Social Landlords

Government Offers Direct Payment Guarantee For Social Landlords

Private Rental Sector Landlords
Expected To Fend For Themselves

PRS landlords were left furious after the Government Welfare Reform minister offered social landlords the opportunity for direct payment of housing benefit under the Universal Credit scheme, but there was no such offer for private landlords.

Government Welfare Minister, Lord Freud has offered landlords a series of small concessions over Universal Credit, with payment of housing benefit to tenants temporarily suspended if rent arrears exceed two months. However, this only applies to social housing landlords, i.e local authorities and housing associations and not private sector landlords.

Lord Freud confirmed that direct payment of housing benefit to tenants who are at least two months’ behind with their rent, would be suspended, with the total amount of rent outstanding paid back to social landlords within six to nine months.

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Direct Payment Of Universal Credit Can Be Made To Landlords with Tenants in Arrears

Direct Payment Of Universal Credit Can Be Made To Landlords with Tenants in Arrears

The Government’s change of policy will now allow automatic direct payments of housing benefit to landlords providing the tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears.

The government rethink has been welcomed by the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) and all UK landlords who house tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

Yesterday was the day the Government’s first flagship universal credit pilot scheme went live in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, and a circular to all housing benefit staff revealed that automatic direct payments to landlords will now be allowed in the pathfinder areas.

The policy change was tucked away on the last page of an obscure circular published by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) yesterday. Universal credit expert and RLA trainer, Bill Irvine, spotted it and immediately informed the RLA.

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Despite the exorbitant claims about lower LHA rents and the acceptance of them by private rented sector, (PRS), landlords made by the coalition government Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament on January 11th. Only a handful of landlords with tenants on Local Housing Allowance are actually accepting lower rents in exchange for getting rent paid to them directly.

The claim by the Prime Minister David Cameron that private rents are falling as a result of welfare reforms was wrong!

Mr Cameron had claimed in Parliament on January 11th 2012 that: “rent levels have come down, so we have stopped ripping off the taxpayer”. Apparently he was quoting rental data from LSL Property Services, which had only been quoting falling private sector rents.

The data published by LSL Property Services does not take into account LHA rents.

In an attempt to get landlords to lower rents, councils have temporary powers to pay landlords, rather than tenants, the LHA in exchange for lowered rents.

A later statement from 10 Downing St said: “Private landlords were reducing rents – lessening the impact of benefit cuts – in return for local housing allowance being paid directly to them.

The prime minister made his wildly inaccurate claim in the middle of the Welfare Reform Bill’s rough ride through the House of Lords at a time when his government was desperately seeking to convince peers that the package of reforms would not increase homelessness as tenants would be left struggling to meet their rents under the new benefit caps.

Mr Cameron’s claims that private rents are falling as a result of the governments welfare reforms were difficult to swallow for a number of property professionals, prompting one magazine to take action.

The same data was quoted again on 30th January 2012 by Housing minister Grant Shapps, who seized on the same survey by estate agency LSL Property Services, citing it as the evidence Mr Cameron had used to support his claims.

The survey did indeed show rents fell by 0.8% in December – the second successive monthly fall.

However, if the data is examined correctly, the figures reveal the seasonal drop in private sector rents before Christmas was actually less than the 2.3% drop in December 2010 and rents overall had actually risen 4% year-on-year.

The magazine Inside Housing, used the Freedom of Information Act to request information on LHA rents from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and every local authority in England following Mr Cameron’s claim in the House of Commons.

204 local authorities responded, with only 36 reporting any rent reductions in return for direct payment of LHA. Of the 36, 12 reported a combined total of 65 landlords cutting rents, an average of fewer than six landlords in each area.

The DWP says it has ‘no data records’ of how many landlords have reduced rents, but it has collected ‘anecdotal evidence’ from around 80 councils.

It states: ‘The majority have reported that they have used the new safeguard to help claimants negotiate down rents and all plan to use it during 2012 as transitional (payment) protection runs out.

The Inside Housing survey suggests that most PRS landlords are not even remotely tempted to accept lower rental payments for their properties, either directly from local authorities or not.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have each disputed the claim rents are falling and believe landlords are more likely to reduce the number of tenancies let to benefit recipients, warning that landlords would rather re-let their properties at the full market price to working tenants, and are able to do so in the current climate of high rental demand.

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Jack Dromey, has already written to number 10 about the issue but received no response and will raise the matter in parliament demanding that Mr Cameron corrects his statement or justifies it.

Mr Dromey said: “Now we know the truth. The nationwide Inside Housing story exposes the reality of rising rents in most areas of the country and explodes the myth that rents are falling”.

 

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