Housing Benefit NEWSFLASH

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

15:56 PM, 20th December 2011
About 9 years ago

Housing Benefit NEWSFLASH

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Housing Benefit NEWSFLASH

For months now, those of us in the housing advice world have been watching the slow motion car crash that is the unfolding housing benefit changes and we are nearly at the point where the airbag fails to deploy.

That’s right folks, the impending changes to the single room rate is just over a week away.

In case you missed it, in it’s rush to save money, the government has decided that the age limit for the housing benefit level for single people under the age of 25 is to be raised to 35. The SRR as it is known pays housing benefit for a single room only. If the claimant wants their own one bed self contained flat, they have to find the rest of the rent themselves. Of course, being on benefits they don’t have the extra money so are destined to only live in shared accommodation for the most part.

The single room rate is what most tenants in HMOs have traditionally been on, but up until now housing benefit claimants over 25 could claim benefit for a self contained property not just a room in a house. This all comes to an end in January 2012.

This means the age of your average HMO tenant on benefits will rise to almost middle age.

But as you would expect things aren’t quite so simple. There are a number of exceptions to the single room rate eligibility. I just received a very useful leaflet that explains how the exemptions work. You may find it useful. You can download a copy here

There has been a last minute flurry of quick training sessions for us all and the circulation of a variety of advice leaflets. Obviously us lot are going to be looking into ways to get tenants around this and into the eligibility criteria. For once we are on the landlord’s side.

We have already started jiggering around with it. I interviewed a guy two weeks ago who turns 35 in September. What we had to do was bust a gut to get him out of his tenancy and into a new one before January 1st. That way he stays on the normal HB rate for a year, during which time he turns 35 and will be safe from the cuts.

All you HMO landlords out there get ready for a lot of confusion and don’t expect consistent advice from HB or other agencies as we all get to grips with the new rules and its exemptions.



Comments

Mark Alexander

19:26 PM, 20th December 2011
About 9 years ago

OMG, Ben am I reading this right? Page two of the guide suggests to me that dangerous criminals between the age of 25 and 35 get a better deal than people who have never comitted an offence. So, does this document insight criminal behaviour? Let me spell it out as I see it. Law abiding single 30 year old claiming benefit for a one bed flat gets benefits reduced. However, if that person can't afford to top up the shortfall, he a very serious which makes him a danger to society and hey presto, benefit goes back up and all is well? Please tell I've misread this?

John Paul

21:05 PM, 20th December 2011
About 9 years ago

Absolute disgrace, this government is destroying this country. It punishes those who want to make something of themselves in the form of restrictions and taxes and then rewards criminals and layabouts. Another ill thought out move. Why should an convicted rapist or murderer get preferential treatment to some one who has lost their job and is down on their luck?

8:17 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

This is a load of rubbish. The percentage of dangerous criminals is extremely low, you are ramping it up like the Daily Express. At the moment many criminals have better houses and flats than can be afforded by the hard working. We have seen housing benefit costs shoot up by landlords ripping off the tax payer. Enough is enough, housing benefit needs to be cut.

Landlords you have no moral ground to stand on, your more concerned about your on pillage of the benefit system.

Mark Alexander

8:39 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

Simon, myself and John Paul are both landlords. I choose not to take LHA tenants but John Paul does. Nevertheless, we are both equally appalled that people who pose a risk to society can get increased benefits and better housing. Your attack on landlords, therefore, seems to be ill conceived.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

9:07 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

Simon you are right in saying the percentage of dangerous criminals is low. It is easy to get carried away with the exemptions in the new rules, only a small proportion of MAPPA cases are out there. Having said that I dont agree that landlords are pilaging the HB system. It is a service industry that like any business survives on cash flow. You cant expect a landlord to lower rents just for HB tenants, that is the massive mistake the government is making in using HB cuts to drive down rents.

Lower rents for the needy should be the preserve of social lanldords, which was the whole point of their existence going right back to Rowntree and Peabody in the 1800s. The fact that governments are now pushing up social rents under the laughably titled 'Affordable rents' scheme is the thing that gets my goat.

@John and Mark. I think you are looking at this from the wrong end. Forget the rights and wrongs of giving dangerous criminals a better deal and just look at the practicalities. MAPPA placements are considered a danger to the community and you need to keep a close eye on where they are placed. You also dont want them sharing property with others who they might be a danger to.

Your views on offenders of this kind need to be seperated from the practicalities of the housing situation, it just being the way it is. If they aint in prison they have to live somewhere and it is better that they live in a place that doesnt require them to share with others.

If a house share found out that their house mate was a predatory peadophile for instance you can imagine the fallout and they would understandably complain that someone who is considered a danger to them had been foisted on them without their prior knowledge.

The bottom line is they have to live somewhere, or alternatively they live on the street where they cant be monitored.
These are the kinds of thorny issues that nobody wants to consider that is the stock in trade of councils and people in my kinds of jobs. An abhorence at their crimes and a moral view on them doesnt take away the fact that we have to do something with them.

For me their exemption from the SRR is a sound element that goes some way towards helping us manage the problem.

Mark Alexander

9:14 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

I accept that they need to live somewhere Ben, but not in a nice self contained one bed flat provided by some namby pamby housing association when honest people have to live in an HMO, it's just not right. Please see the comment I've just left on this thread regarding rehabilitation of offenders and those who pose a risk to society >>> http://www.property118.com/index.php/new-lha-laws-favour-violent-criminals/22565/

Ben Reeve-Lewis

9:26 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

Just read it Mark but you are still making the same point. The morailty and fairness of the system.

The reality is the practicalities.

I used to sit on a MAPPA panel, which is a meeting attended by police, sopcial workers, housing staff, probation officers etc. The Point of MAPPA is ot provide a joined up action plan for people who are a danger to the community for a variety of reason. This stuff is taken very seriously. If someone complains about my work as a TRO then they can sue the council but if you go on a MAPPA panel and information gets out about your client then the officer is personally liable for prosecution, not the organisation they work for.

So confidentiality is of the utmost importance. You hear things on these panels that would make your hair curl and you have to sit in interview rooms with people who disgust you. Thats the job.

The people I had as clients when I was a MAPPA signatory I would not want living in shared accommodation because their behaviours could easily be exacerbated by shared living, not to mention what would happen if peple found out who they were living with. I dont think it is fair, and in many cases even safe, for some of the people I knew to be foisted on others.

We have these people in our society and in our communities. You can rail against this but it is what it is. The question is, what is the best way to manage them? The SRR exemptions do help in that respect

Mark Alexander

9:34 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

If they are such a danger to society Ben, why are they allowed to live in society and not made to live in a mental institution or prison? I still don't get it. People work hard and save hard to buy their starter homes but the rules say that all new developments have to contain a percentage of social housing. Why should decent people have to live on the same development as these nutters?

You say the percentage of people who fit into this category of our society is very small. However, even a tiny percentage of the population could amount to a lot of people. Can you guess at a number? Please go for a wide range if you need to but I'd like to get some perspective on this.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

9:49 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

I have no idea on numbers Mark. Ex offender organisations would know more about that than me. I just know from my MAPPA experiences that they are a small working percentage of specialist housng cases.

Schedule 1 offenders as they are known arent necesarily nutters, they can be people wo have committed violent crimes and are still being closely monitored but, as is the case with our system and the systems of justice in most countries, once you have done your time you've paid your debt. Once released back into the community you arent necessarily a model citizen but you cant keep people banged up for things they might do in the future. All you can do is be mindful and MAPPA panels perform that function.

My ex sister in law is a psychologist and her job is to assess people's risk before the authorities decide whether or not they should be released. Its not a responsibility I would want.

I see people in the street, my ex clients and I know a lot about them that I cant tell anyone else. I wouldnt want them living near me but at least if they are under MAPPA I know there are a team of people watching them closely.

Having said that how many violent nutters live in our community who just havent been caught?

Mark Alexander

10:04 AM, 21st December 2011
About 9 years ago

I understand what you are saying Ben but I still don't agree with the principals. Closely monitored is good. However, the PDF document says they have to be judged to be a threat to society to get the extra benefit. If they are a threat but they've served their time then surely there should be some sort of half way house? I just can't reconcile how that can be a one bed self contained flat, potentially on a modern housing development in the designated social housing area of that development. Presumably closely monitored means ASBO's etc.? Why can't specialist HMO's be developed, away from society and staffed with appropriately trained people be created for this element of community? If they end up killing each other then they go back to prison. If they get their act together and start earning money then maybe they will choose to move out of that type of environment and rent a one bed flat privately. Until they can do that, I just can't see that it's right that honest folk will have to move out of their flats and live in shared houses becuase they can no longer afford the rent but people who pose a danger to society wont be under the same financial pressure.

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