RLA trainer, and Housing Benefit expert, Bill Irvine is back with his series of articles discussing Universal Credit, potential restrictions…now he turns his attention to potential issues concerning non-UK tenants and rent arrears in the face of benefit changes.
Bill, via his website www.ucadvice.co.uk, writes:
The House of Commons library has just published a briefing paper – People from abroad: what benefits can they claim? – to help your understanding of state benefit & tax credit rules, relating to people who come to the UK from abroad. In recent times, changes to the benefits regime, affecting this group of tenants has created both rent arrears and the need for recovery action.
As the paper’s introduction suggests:
“The rules on eligibility for benefits for people coming to the UK from abroad are one of the most complex areas of welfare rights law. Whether or not a person can claim benefits and, if so, which benefits, may depend on a number of factors. These include nationality, immigration status (and any conditions attached to it), the circumstances under which the person arrived in the UK, whether they are deemed “habitually resident”, whether they are in work or looking for work, and whether they arrived alone or with other family members. Many other factors may be relevant”.
I know, from my experience of dealing with social and private landlords’ staff, this is an area which has caused them real grief, particularly in the past two years, as the UK government has introduced a series of new measures, designed to curb entitlement.
This, in turn, has created a considerable amount of benefit refusals and cancellations of Jobbseekers Allowance (JSA), Housing Benefit (HB), and Tax Credits. Landlords’ staff have tried to assist, especially where housing benefit is involved, as this, in turn, creates rent arrears. In many cases, there is no means of securing a solution to the problem, so when this is realised recovery action is invoked.
Although I provide advice & advocacy to landlords, in relation to HB/Local Housing Allowance (LHA) issues, I tend to refer landlords and their tenants to seek help from law centres, specialist advisors, like welfare rights officers etc. as it’s the rights of the tenant, rather than landlord, which are directly affected.
I would encourage tenants who have moved to the UK from abroad, that before making a claim for any state benefit or Tax Credit, they seek this type of specialist advice and support, as, in some cases, a claim for benefits may mean that they are in breach of immigration conditions and could result in their removal, a refusal of further leave and/or prosecution.
If you require advice on this topic or any other welfare reform topic or are looking for training for your staff or Committee Members on Universal Credit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.