Currently viewing the tag: "Housing Benefit"

 

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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Landlords Still Concerned About LHA Tenant Rent Arrears

Landlords Still Concerned About LHA Tenant Rent Arrears

LHA Tenant Rent Arrears
Are Landlords Worse Case Scenario

The UK private rented sector may be booming and tenant demand is certainly strong but 60% of landlords and letting agents are still concerned about ever receiving the rent if they choose to accept tenants in a rental property who are claiming Local Housing Allowance.

A survey of 500 landlords and letting agents by website Dssmove found that apart from the rent issue, 75% of landlords and agents would be more than happy to let to Local Housing Allowance tenants.

Over half of the landlords and letting agents surveyed believed that tenants claiming Local Housing Allowance are no more troublesome than working tenants, but 61% cite rent collection and rent arrears as a major concern.

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New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

New Report Backs Welfare Reforms

Research from an independent consortium led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University covering the impact of recent Housing Benefit reform in the private rented sector was published on Monday 13th May.

The report examined the attitudes of tenant claimants and private rented sector buy-to-let landlords in 19 areas across the UK, following the Housing Benefit and Welfare Reforms that were ordered by the coalition Government in April 2011.

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform said:”Reform of Housing Benefit in the private rented sector was absolutely necessary to control a system that saw spending double over a decade to more than £20 Billion (GBP) a year. However, it is also necessary to monitor and follow the reforms to help us build and learn for the future”.

Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), said:”This report provides findings from in-depth interviews undertaken with tenant claimants, landlords and housing advisors in early stages of the implementation of the reforms.

The CRESR also conducted separate analysis of all UK Housing Benefit claims to provide an insight to the initial impacts of the welfare reforms across the UK.

The CRESR report finds:

  • Large numbers of tenants claiming benefits have not been forced to move out of rental properties during the study
  • In 120 UK local authority areas, overall reductions to a tenant’s Housing Benefit / Local Housing Allowance (LHA) have been averaged at £5 (GBP) or less
  • The extra £130 Million (GBP) of support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to local authorities to help tenant claimants with Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) has assisted tenant claimants well where Housing Benefit / LHA reductions have been greater than the national average.

The consortium is led by Ian Cole, Professor of Housing Studies, from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. Other key team members included Peter Kemp of Oxford Institute of Social Policy, Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Ben Marshall from IPSOS-MORI.

The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK’s leading academic research centres specialising in social and economic regeneration, housing and labour market analysis.

The consortium’s research started in April 2011 and will run until this Autumn (2013) and covers the effects of:

  • Setting Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates from the median to the 30th percentile of local market rents from April 2011
  • Capping Local Housing Allowance rates by property size from April 2011 to:
    • £250 per week for 1 bed
    • £290 per week for two bed
    • £340 per week for three bed
    • £400 per week for four bed or more
  • The increased Government contribution to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budget
  • Increased powers of local authorities to make direct payments to landlords to support tenant claimants in order to retain and secure tenancies in the private rental sector.
  • Allowing an additional bedroom within the size criteria used to assess Housing Benefit claims in the Private Rented Sector where a disabled person, or someone with a long-term health condition, has a proven need for overnight care and it is provided by a non-resident carer who requires a bedroom.

The full research ‘Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report’ is available here: Monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance system of Housing Benefit: Interim report

The Scottish Government along with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) and Welsh Assembly Government are working in close partnership with the DWP and each contributing to the costs of the review.

Further CRESR reports are expected to be published in early 2014.

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 That Affect Landlords

Welfare Reforms That Affect Landlords

A basic round up for all UK Private Rental Sector (PRS) landlords of what is and what will be happening to affect tenants that are in reciept of benefits during the 2013 Welfare Reforms. 

Council Tax Benefit April 2013

 

  • Local authorities will become responsible for their own Council Tax schemes under the welfare reforms. Anyone of working age will now have to contribute towards their own council tax – All PRS tenants should have received a letter from their local authority if this affects them.

Disability Living Allowance

  • This benefit is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments.
  • All new and existing claimants will be reassessed using stricter rules so fewer people will qualify. The new assessment will focus on an individual’s ability to carry out a range of key activities necessary to everyday life.

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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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The ‘Bedroom Tax’ – Under Occupancy Ruling

Changes will be made to Housing Benefit under the UK Government’s Welfare reforms which will come into effect from 1 April 2013 which will mean tenants claiming benefits will receive less benefit towards the cost of the rent.

If there is one spare bedroom in the rental property then the Housing Benefit will be cut by 14% of the cost of the rent. If there are 2 spare bedrooms then the Housing Benefit will be cut by 25% of the cost of the rent.

The new bedroom tax rules mean that tenants in social housing will see their benefit cut if they have spare rooms. These rules even apply to those not on benefit, they will now face charges of around £13 for one spare room and £22 for 2 rooms.

Under the new government rules, one bedroom is allocated for:

  • A couple.
  • A person who is not a child (aged 16 and over).
  • 2 children of the same sex up to the age of 16.
  • 2 children who are under 10.
  • Any other child, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere).
  • A carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care.

What it could mean for your tenants

If your tenants are affected by these changes and their Housing Benefit doesn’t cover the cost of the rent, the tenant is expected and legally obliged to pay their landlord the balance.

These welfare reforms will instantly affect social housing tenants, however, private rental sector (PRS) tenants won’t be affected by this change at the present time, but it will happen.

Use the link to the welfare reform calculator to see how your tenants could be affected – Welfare reform calculator

Preparing your tenants for the changes

As a landlord you may wish for your tenants to consider:

  • Talking to you – Re-negotiate a rent reduction to a level which is more affordable
  • Opening a Credit Union account so that rental payments can be made automatically without the tenant having full access to the whole proportion of their benefit payments.
  • Get a job to replace their benefit income.

Housing Benefit will be paid direct to people of working age through Universal Credit. This means that they will have to make arrangements to pay the full rent on time every month directly to their landlord.

This will start in October 2013 for all new claims, with existing claimants being moved onto ‘Universal Credit’ from April 2014.

Universal Credit is a new means-test benefit for working age people. It will be a monthly payment paid into a household bank account that will be generally phased in from October 2013, however this will be trialed by certain local authorities including the City of Salford from April 1st 2013. It will first be introduced for new claimants and for people whose circumstances have changed resulting in a change to their benefits.

It will replace lots of benefits that your tenants may currently receive, including: Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

How It Will Affect Your Tenants

When the changes affect your tenants:

  • Tenants may receive less benefits resulting in a shortfall in income leading to financial struggles.
  • Tenants will be paid benefits on a monthly basis, direct to their bank account.
  • Universal Credit payments will include the Housing Benefit payment which will be paid directly to them even if they are still in rent arrears or are considered vulnerable
  • There may be a risk of tenant rent default and this needs to be watched out for and action should be taken  to recover the rent immediately.

The latest data published by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has revealed another upward trend in landlord investment and property portfolio building, despite the poor availability of adequate Buy-To-Let mortgages.

The number of UK PRS rental properties owned by landlords increased from seven at the beginning of 2012 to 8 in the final quarter of 2012, with on average, at least 1 of these properties being a HMO.

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Controvesial Universal Credit Needs

To Be Given A Chance Landlords Told

Landlords Urged To Give Universal Credit A Chance

Landlords Urged To Give Universal Credit A Chance

Few systems have caused as much controversy before even being launched as the government’s universal credit. It draws together all welfare claims into a single monthly payment, like a salary, so will undoubtedly change the financial landscape for landlords and tenants – yet it has the potential to improve the claims process for all involved.

One of the big benefits of the system – if implemented correctly – is that claims will be processed online and in real time.

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