Landlord’s Must Prepare for Universal Credit Roll Out

The roll out of Universal Credit continues apace, with tax expert Bill Irvine warning landlord’s they must be prepared if they have tenants who rely on benefits to pay their rent.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that the digital system will be rolled out from May this year in Bath, Newcastle, Rugby, Bridgewater and Lowestoft.

A further 25 Job Centre plus (JCP) areas will be added between July to December, with the expectation that all JCP areas will be completed by June 2018.

The move is significant, in that in most areas claims have been restricted to single “working age” adults, whereas the digital system deals with all claimant types including couples, couples with children, single parents, people with disabilities and those working full and part time.

So far in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced a significant number of landlord’s – 50-60% have been able to negotiate direct payments. However full implementation of the system could see problems arise around a range of issues, from Alternative Payment Arrangements, backdating of claims and over payments to situations arising from couples splitting up and household combining.

Bill, who delivers training courses on Universal Credit on behalf of the RLA said: “Clearly, this represents a major step forward for DWP and Universal Credit’s future.

“Social and private landlord’s, in the areas identified, can expect a significant increase in Universal Credit claims from all tenant types, as the “gateway” conditions that currently apply to restrict claims to mainly single men are effectively removed.

Bill said that many social and private landlord’s in Manchester, Liverpool and Wirral areas, where Universal Credit is already in operation, received only one months notice before implementing and has advised landlord not to get caught napping.

He said: “Being prepared should now be a priority if you’re a landlord heavily engaged in Local Housing Allowance type tenancies. You need to be fully conversant with these new and sometimes very complex issues.

“Don’t anticipate assistance DWP, as to date, it has operated at arms-length, is quite ambivalent to tenant/landlord enquiries/complaints and recently banned landlords from utilising its “Complaints Process” when trying to secure compensation for wholly avoidable rental loss

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