Details of the Government’s new procedures for the payment of universal credit have been released – and they confirm that the landlord’s right to insist on direct rent payments if a tenant is in arrears will be scrapped.
Instead, payments will be made directly to tenants and it will be up to them to pay their rents or not. The proposals will mean the end of direct payment to landlords for rent as we have known it, and the new procedures will apply across the board to local authority tenants, housing association tenants and tenants in the private rented sector.
The RLA has serious concerns about the proposals:
1. No back stop provision under which a landlord can demand payment direct.
2. Lack of clarity/much greater individual discretion in operating these rules because “guidance” replaces regulations.
3. No means of redress for landlords if things go wrong/no rights of appeal.
4. No proposal that the guidance should reflect the landlords interests to make sure that rent is paid and that a roof is kept over the head of the claimant.
5. The whole concept of trying to improve tenant’s responsibility at the cost of much greater risk to landlords with strong likelihood of significantly higher arrears.
6. Much less likelihood of landlords being willing to take on benefit claimants. This could even translate into less likelihood of a willingness to taken on claimants who are in work especially part time work because the same rules will apply to them.
7. No provision for first payment of benefit direct to the landlord.
8. We have argued with DWP that there should be a right for landlords to be paid direct payments once there are six weeks arrears and also that the whole system of vulnerability should be assessed according to the tenant’s interest of keeping a roof over their head and the landlord’s interest to receive the money, as well as the public interest of making sure that the benefit is used for its intended purpose.
Richard Jones, the RLA’s policy director, said, “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed and although the objective of helping tenants manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this. There will be a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants (at a time when there is huge pressure on social housing), increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property (or increased interest rate to reflect the risk), much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”
Further details will follow about how you can assist the RLA in opposing these proposals.
UPDATE 6th July 2012 – The RLA has been told by senior sources that the Government will allow direct payments, although this is still unconfirmed and no mention is made of it in the draft regulations. Further clarification is now being sought from the Government, and an update will be posted once the RLA receives a response back.