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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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Moving Abroad? – Things To Know Before You Go

Moving Abroad? – Things To Know Before You Go

British Citizens Warned To Plan For

The Unexpected When Moving Abroad!

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a checklist for British citizens planning to purchase property, retiring or moving abroad.

Buying property overseas can transform the lives of many property investors, but buyers are warned to take independent advice before completing any overseas property purchases and moving abroad.

FCO staff last year helped a number of British expatriates with a variety of issues, with many people facing heavy fines, financial ruin or finding themselves on the wrong side of the law because they were not fully prepared.

These cases involved issues such as property disputes, bankruptcy caused by changes in personal circumstances, pension complications and unexpected health issues.

A recent FCO report also suggests that high hospitalisation and death rates occur in areas where large numbers of elderly British nationals reside, notably in Europe and South East Asia.

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MP’s Claim Universal Credit Is Another Government White Elephant

MP’s Claim Universal Credit Is Another Government White Elephant

Universal Credit Roll-Out faces major delays

The current Local Housing Allowance (LHA) benefit system is likely to continue until at least 2017 for the majority of private rental sector (PRS) landlords and tenants in most of the UK, following major delays to the roll-out of the new Universal Credit system.

Universal Credit was originally due to be rolled out nationally to all new tenants claiming benefits from October this year, however due to continued problems, the controversial welfare reform measure will just be extended to an additional six jobcentres.

The delay is being blamed on poor IT by Government ministers, leading to claims that Universal Credit is just another Government white elephant.

Universal Credit was heralded by its proponents as an easier way to deliver state benefits including housing benefit or LHA and tax credits into one lump sum paid monthly to claimants, but its proposal saw an immediate backlash from PRS landlords, letting agents and landlord associations over the abolition of direct rent payments to landlords.

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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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Uncertainty Remains Over Recovery Of Universal Credit Rent Arrears

Uncertainty Remains Over Recovery Of Universal Credit Rent Arrears

The UK Government are to introduce a mechanism to automatically recover rent arrears, alongside the direct payment of housing benefit to tenants.

Details released last week by the government explained that under the welfare reforms landlords will now be able to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to request Universal Credit benefits designed to cover housing costs of tenants are paid to them once a prescribed level of rent arrears have been reached.

At this point the DWP will recover the arrears by docking universal credit payments to tenants.

In its response to a Communities and Local Government (CLG) select committee report on the implementation of universal credit, the government says deductions can be up to 5% under existing legislation, but the government are considering whether this level of deduction is appropriate for tenants claiming universal credit, or if it should be increased in the future.

Under the new universal credit scheme, which is being rolled out nationally in the UK from autumn 2013, a range of benefits, including Housing Benefit (HB) or Local Housing Allowance (LHA), will be combined into a single monthly payment termed “Universal Credit”.

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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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Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

The Government’s controversial welfare reforms will leave the benefits system more vulnerable to fraud, according to a group of MPs.

The Government decision to press on with welfare reforms means that Universal credit is set to be implemented nationally from October 2013 and replaces a string of existing benefits such as local housing allowance (LHA), housing benefit (HB) and child tax credits.

Changes to IT system for universal credit could make it harder to distinguish fraudulent claims from those that are genuine, and there are calls for the government to give swift assurance that the introduction of Universal Credit will not cause a rise in benefit fraud,

MPs issued the warning after a report by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee into the extent of the welfare reforms highlighted several concerns about the new Universal Credit scheme.

The first trial of the new system begins on 29 April 2013 in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

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Universal Credit Will Backfire Warns Think Tank

Government Welfare Reforms Set To Backfire As Claimants Don't Want Universal CreditThe proposed welfare reforms are not wanted by the majority of claimants or their landlords according to research by the Social Market Foundation.

Tenants with low incomes and families claiming benefit will be pushed further into financial difficulties and debt by the shift to monthly benefit payments under Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

Attempts as part of the new Universal Credit system to encourage claimants to budget properly and make their own rental payments risk backfiring, the Social Market Foundation said.

It called for the introduction of an online budgeting tool allowing claimants to set the frequency of payments themselves and allocate income to different items of expenditure.

However the foundation stopped short of calling for landlords to continue to receive direct payments for tenants that were considered vulnerable or at risk.

Under the Universal Credit there will be one single monthly benefit payment – rather than weekly or fortnightly as at present – and all tenants will have to pay landlords themselves.

The Government says it will be “flexible” with those who struggle to manage their money.

Research by the Social Market Foundation, entitled Sink or Swim: the Impact of Universal Credit, found that most low income households were opposed to the moves, expressing fears that they would not be able to budget properly and could end up in rent arrears and even face eviction.

Nigel Keohane, the think tank’s deputy director and co-author of the report doubted whether plans by the Government to provide special arrangements for certain vulnerable individuals was adequate, stating: “The Government’s laudable aim that Universal Credit should prepare families for work, boost their resilience to financial shocks, and simplify the system is at risk of backfiring. By moving to a single monthly payment for all benefits, the Government is removing the markers and aids that families currently rely on to budget effectively. Our research shows that this will throw people in at the deep end leaving them either to sink or swim. This laissez-faire approach will create real problems not only for families themselves, but also for public service organisations, such as social and private sector landlords and childcare providers, that families will end up owing money to. Instead of mandating monthly payments and centrally planning which families to exempt, the Government should allow low income families to take the decision themselves through an online budgeting tool,” he said. “This would allow the reforms to work with the grain of wider government objectives like personal responsibility and increased financial capability rather than working against them as the current system seems set to do.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Universal Credit will be paid monthly because most people in work are paid that way and the system should help people get used to the patterns of working life. But we will make sure that no one falls through the cracks, and we are working with local authorities and the financial industry on how best to support individuals. We have always said we would be flexible with people who might struggle to manage their money.”

Hmmm…..If that last statement is true, then the DWP had better start preparing to open a separate department to deal with struggling landlords as the Universal Credit system is severely flawed and the majority of claimants don’t want direct payments because they are unable to cope at the present time, so what happens to them in 2013?

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Universal Credit Row Rages On

Universal Credit Payment Row Rages On

MP’s Fight Among Themselves As Universal Credit Row Gets Heated!

A parliamentary debate held earlier this month (September) saw MPs from both sides of the house getting a little hot under the collar, arguing about how payment of the new Universal Credit benefit, due to be introduced next year, should be made.

Universal credit is set to take over from Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and controversy surrounds the fact that ALL payments will be made directly to the claimant rather than to their landlord or the letting agent managing their rental property – just as LHA payments are paid now.

During the debate, Labour MP Alex Cunningham raised the concern that the new Universal Credit could result in large rent arrears being accrued and an increase in tenant evictions if payments are made directly to tenants, and claimants living in private rental properties should be given the option to have the payments made direct to their landlords.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Iain Duncan-Smith however vehemently defended the decision for direct payment stating that “Benefit claimants shouldn’t be treated like children who can’t manage their own pocket-money. Claimants would benefit more by showing them trust, and that by doing so they would be more likely to cope better when they return to work.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), the National Landlords Association (NLA) and homeless charities Shelter and Crisis, have all lobbied the Government to give claimants the ability to choose how the benefit is paid, but they require the support of all UK landlords.

Property professionals, letting and managing agents, property investors and landlords need to get the weight of support behind the campaign and your help is required, please Sign the e-petition here.

UK landlords are warned to prepare for the worst case scenario and act quickly to evict tenants if rental arrears exceed 8 weeks, as it remains to be seen if the current rental arrears problems will worsen with the new Universal Credit benefit system.

If you have a problem with tenants in more than 8 weeks rent arrears please contact us and we can start eviction proceedings for you. Call Now on 0844 567 4001

The UK's leading tenant eviction specialists

The UK’s leading tenant eviction specialists

Hi All
My property management agents were in the process of interviewing a pair of prospective tenants for one of my properties. The applicants were a homeless married couple who had been forced to relocate to the area due to losing their jobs and wanted to move to an area with better employment opportunities.

The application was going great until it came to checking the couple’s housing benefit entitlement….

According to the local authority (I wont name and shame them here for legal reasons) the married couple were only entitled to the shared room rate because they were married and under 35. The management company attempted to argue over such blatant discrimination by the local authority but the facts seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Single claimants under 35 would be entitled to receive the shared room rate in full as individuals, but because the applicants were married they only counted as a single applicant!

It has taken 4 months of hard work, stress and a great deal of legal wrangling to sort out, including requests for Discretionary Payments, consultations with LHA professionals and arguements with various Government departments.

Following tips and advice gleaned from “The Essential Landlords LHA Handbook” I have now been able to get the full 2 bed LHA rate paid directly to me and the local authority have been forced to make a grovelling apology to the tenants!

It just goes to show that when armed with the right information and legal standpoints there are always options open to landlords, and it pays to invest in the knowledge of experts!

I would like to publicly thank the LHA Expert for his brilliant LHA book and tons of helpful advice!

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