The Residential Landlords Association is warning that the time to stop planning, and actually start getting ready for Universal Credit is upon us.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith surprised many with the announcement that Universal Credit will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities by February 2015 following a pilot scheme in the North West.
The government press release, which you can view here, is very important news for housing associations and landlords alike. Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement removes uncertainty about implementation though doubt remains over the ability of the DWP to successfully deliver a national roll-out in such a challenging timescale.
Iain Duncan Smith has said
“Today [September 29th, 2014] I can announce that we are going to accelerate the delivery of Universal Credit from the New Year, bringing forward the national rollout through 2015/16 to every single community across Great Britain.”
The North West trial gives an indication of what landlords across the country can expect in the coming months.
Housing benefit expert, and RLA Universal Credit trainer, Bill Irvine has been dealing specifically with the Bolton branch of the pilot scheme and has some important thoughts for landlords to keep in mind.
First and foremost Bill is warning landlords that there is little point in conjecture, Universal Credit is coming and it’s time to make sure you are ready!
Bill Irvine is concerned that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), who are overseeing the scheme, are not quite ready for a total roll out. Universal Credit will impact potentially 1.6 million tenancies. It is imperative the programme is ready to handle such demand.
According to Bill, the dedicated UC team in Bolton is struggling to understand and cope with some of the “housing costs” issues. This represents some of the most straightforward claims and a relatively low number of overall potential claims. Bill feels that if DWP is experiencing such difficulty in Bolton, it is likely to be similar elsewhere, and sees a national roll out as incredibly optimistic.
Landlords need to familiarise themselves with the scheme to mitigate any potential rental losses. The regime is much harsher with backdating becoming incredibly difficult and only available for one month prior.
RLA training on Universal Credit with Bill is available, and Bill Irvine provides advice through his firm UC Advice.