Changes to Universal Credit will make it easier for direct payments to be made to landlords.
Following extensive campaigning by the RLA, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed to it that landlords will no longer need tenants’ consent when applying for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs).
APAs allow the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord.
Until now a landlord would need the ‘explicit consent’ of the tenant to do this. In practice, this meant tenants could delay or refuse consent, leading to substantial rent arrears being built up.
The DWP has now scrapped the requirement and if a landlord can prove the tenant is in arrears of two months or more, it will introduce payments direct to the landlord – as used to happen under housing benefit.
The RLA has campaigned tirelessly on this and a range of other issues surrounding the controversial scheme.
Chris Town, RLA Vice Chair said: “The latest news regarding APAs is a major step in the right direction, and will improve the operation of Universal Credit for landlords and tenants.
“The RLA’s close working relationship with the DWP has led to this and a number of other constructive changes in the operation of Universal Credit.
“That said, further changes are still needed and we will continue to work with the department to make Universal Credit work better for landlords and tenants alike.”
The change to APAs were brought into effect from December 20th 2017.
Tenants will have the opportunity to challenge applications, and under the new system will be given seven days to dispute or disagree with the request.
If they can provide evidence that they are not in arrears – or that they are in dispute with their landlord, the APA will not be created.
The DWP said the move will both help Universal Credit claimants manage their money and help reduce the risk of rent arrears.
A DWP spokesperson told the RLA: “Universal Credit is the biggest welfare reform in a generation and lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives.
“As we roll-out the new system, we are improving the way it works and this includes increasing support to help people stay on top of their rent payments.”
A debate on the effect of Universal Credit on the private rented sector will take place in Westminster Hall at 9.30am on Tuesday 9th January.
The RLA’s work has been quoted extensively in a note for MPs on the issues involved, which includes statistics from the RLA report Welfare Reform and Universal Credit: The impact on the private rented sector produced by the association’s research arm PEARL.
- The RLA runs Universal Credit courses. For more information and to book click here.