Tag Archives: Housing benefit

Readers advice for landlords letting to single tenants on Housing Benefit Latest Articles

Just wanted to post a note on here for those landlords who let properties to single people claiming Housing Benefit.

For people age between 25 and 35 there is an exception to the Local Housing Allowance restrictions if they have spent a total of over 3 months in a homeless hostel, at any time (even if decades ago, and not all at once, and in different LA areas). The exception also applies for those that have been in domestic violence refuges, or in residential drug rehabilitation.

This is sometimes not asked on Housing Benefit claim forms, or tenants don’t give these details as they don’t realise why it would be relevant, but it can make a huge difference to the amount of Housing Benefit a person may be entitled to, e.g. I have just obtained a backdated HB payment for one of my residents of over £1200.

When I first raised this with the Housing Benefit Dept they were not even aware of these exceptions, so I had to send them proof of the LHA exception criteria, but once accepted it has resulted in quite a few increased HB entitlements for my residents. I now specifically ask about past hostel occupancies on my housing application forms so that I can ensure the resident receives the correct entitlement.

Obtaining this for residents can make a big difference to tenancy sustainment, and reduction of rent arrears, leading to greater stability for both landlords and tenants, and the consequential reduction in void times and costs. Housing benefit


Universal Credit is not a debacle Parliament told by IDS! Landlord News, Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association

Mr Iain Duncan Smith the Work and Pensions Secretary, admitted to Parliament yesterday that the Universal credit system was not yet ready for couples who make a claim.

This was after a storm on Sky News using NLA figures showing that the number of landlords letting to people on benefits has crashed from 46% to just 22% in the last three years.  52% of landlords say they would not consider letting to someone on benefits and 70% of those who do have experienced rent arrears in the past 12 months averaging £3,000 each.

Universal credit has been widely criticised in all the pilot areas it has been rolled out in by landlords. In every area it lead to a significant increase in rent arrears largely because tenants are now responsible for their own household budgets with housing benefits not being paid directly to landlords.

Mr Duncan Smith told Parliament that reforms were on track despite delays and writing off more than £40m worth of software designed for the new Universal Credit with a further £90m of equipment that would be worthless in five years’ time.

MPs on the Commons work and pensions select committee were told that claims by couples had to be handled manually because the computer system could not cope as it was designed for single adults and had not been configured for couples or claimants with children.

Mr Howard Shiplee, the former London Olympics executive who was brought in this year to trouble shoot, told the MPs that problems arose if a single claimant met a new partner and moved in with him or her. He said “As the potential for claimants to change circumstances, for things to change … the more complicated it becomes.

“Therefore the next stage is to work on couples. That will be a complicated issue. Couples come together, they divide, they have children, things happen.”

“This sort of software is not something you get on the back of a cigarette packet. It’s complicated.”

Mr Duncan Smith claimed the scheme’s assets were worth £152m and Universal credit could ultimately boost the economy by up to £38bn over ten years by moving claimants off benefits.

It was confirmed last week that the 2017 target for the full introduction of Universal Credit will be missed with 700,000 claimants facing a longer wait.Universal-Credit


Loads of tenants waiting for one house – Who do I rent it to? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Ok people, this is one of my most difficult choices over last 15 years of renting houses.

I always have loads of options and juggling about to do to keep people happy but in the next two weeks …..

I have two bed nice (ish) house coming up. Existing tenant evicted due to being a drunk and scratching neighbours cars!,

So amongst the dozens asking for this house, I have …..

  1. Joiner mate who is now homeless with two dogs, needs somewhere quick, will bring me £110 per week.
  2. Gal been with me approx four years in my 3-4 bed house, who wants to downsize, been asking me about a year. Will get £106 per week for her, but then I have people waiting to give me £160 for her current house (which I am currently only charging £117 for).
  3. Builder mate who’s son is homeless this Saturday, him and his missus working, quite sensible, Will get £110pw.
  4. Then here’s the real sentimental pickle …… tenant just got out of mental hospital to live back in three bed house where partner passed away. This property is bringing in £200 per week as he’s sharing with family member. He says needs to get out, as the house is bringing back memories and he doesn’t want to end up back in mental hospital. My emotional side is leaning towards him because I can see his mind his drifting towards how he was when he got admitted. Plus he needs downstairs a bathroom which 2 bed house has for him. Loads of tenants waiting for one house - Who do I rent it to

If I swap my existing tenants about, I create myself loads more paperwork, as I do Housing Benefit (HB) forms for them, but hopefully if I make the right decision it’s a short term pain for extra income and long standing tenant.

BUT, for years, income was high priority, then last few years or so, feeling sorry for people, letting them off with lower rents etc. and also lesser hassle to me. Now I’m thinking, let’s get all me mortgages paid off over the next 10 years or so, look after no. 1, ‘otherwise I could be in the crap in the future. At least with no mortgages left I will never have massive outgoings, so I will be reasonably safe. Then I can help these homeless people even more.

You might think this is a nice position to be in, but it’s not when you have it all the time. It’s not like when you sell one to highest bidder and never see the others again.

I had to to jot all the different scenario’s down as I was getting confused myself and I can see all sorts of answers coming back.

On Vanessa’s Property Tribes forum the other week I got one bloke telling me I couldn’t rent 2 bed house to woman with 6/7 kids. The other choice would have been to leave them homeless!

I’m not sure what to do because I want to pick the option which is the lesser pain to me and the tenants.

And my joiner mate will not be happy if he doesn’t get this house!

I don’t get a lot of houses come empty now, hardly anyone goes because I am good, because very few landlords want housing benefit tenants and because the Council has got no houses for them.

What should I do?

Regards

Mick


How far back can overpaid Housing Benefit be reclaimed from Landlords? Landlord News, Latest Articles

I am looking for confirmation of the legislation regarding reclaiming Housing Benefit overpaid directly to a private landlord. Is it true that if a council decides that an overpayment of Housing Benefit has been made they have up to 6 years to reclaim this money?

The tenant in question had a backdated Housing Benefit payment of circa £1800 made in 2010. We are not clear on the reason for the re-assessment and why this backdated payment was made by the HB department.

The tenant remains in one of our properties. We have previously had a situation where a tenant received a backdated payment of HB, we refunded the tenant this amount and they subsequently left our property. After this the HB department wrote to us and explained that the backdate was incorrect and they re-claimed the money from us. We at that point had no recourse to collect the money from our former tenant as we could not trace them.

As a result I want to be clear on exactly what powers HB department have to reclaim incorrect payments and specifically if there is a time limit which they must adhere to. My housing officer believes they have this option for up to 6 years from the payment but this seems prohibitive to me.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

JuliaHousing benefit


Should I raise rent in line with RPI or CPI? Latest Articles

I have just read the latest survey about rent rises.

We have several properties, but one, a townhouse, is coming up for review. In light of the latest RPI, and CPI which this month are aprox 2.7% and 3.3% respectively I am considering a rent increase.

I was thinking of using these figures as a guide for a natural increase, which in effect is no increase. The rent is currently £860.00 per 4 weeks, and the tenants get most of this in Housing Benefit. I was thinking of raising it to £895.00 as the general costs have risen, and because they are in receipt of benefits the insurance is 50% higher than normal.

What does everyone think and do you have any advice?

Regards

AlanRPI


Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As early as Christmas working households claiming support for private sector rent could outnumber those in which nobody works, says a new report published tomorrow (Friday 18 October) by London Councils.

‘Tracking Welfare Reform in London’ reveals that just under 50 per cent of households receiving benefit in private rented housing in the capital have at least one person in work. Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing

If the number rises as expected London will be the only part of Britain where working households claiming benefits for private rented housing eclipse those where no-one is working. The report also found the number of people receiving help with their rent has fallen in inner London since May 2011, while in outer boroughs the number has increased.

Chair of London Councils, Mayor Jules Pipe, said: “Last year, private sector rents in inner London rose by 14 per cent, so it’s not surprising that more and more working families are turning to housing benefit to help them survive. Our latest research shows households claiming housing benefit, both working and non-working, are increasing in outer London and that is placing a greater burden on local services such as schools, transport, and social care.

“London Councils supports a fairer, more accountable system of welfare, but is concerned that the current reforms have the potential to be devastating for families and local services. We want the government to undertake a serious, full and fair assessment of the additional costs of welfare reform for London’s councils as soon as possible.”

London Councils, which represents the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, is calling for London to be exempt from the below inflation rise in private sector housing benefit, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It is concerned that the move, which will see LHA rates limited to one per cent growth for the next two years, could drive homelessness.

The report also found:

  • a 17 per cent rise in people claiming LHA since April 2011, with working households accounting for 96 per cent of that growth
  • the number of working households claiming LHA has doubled over four years, while the number of non-working households claiming LHA has increased by 10 per cent over the same period
  • the number of households on LHA fell in some inner London boroughs by as much as 30 per cent between May 2012 and May 2013, but grew by 10,000 in outer London, which equates to an overall rise of 7 per cent
  • a rise in the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need in London since 2010. Around 41,000 households are now in temporary accommodation in London, having presented to their local authority as in urgent housing need
  • around 97 per cent of households affected by the benefit cap in the four pilot London boroughs contained children.

Why Aren’t We More Worried About Withdrawal of Benefits? Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association

I am interested that I can’t see any response to, or comment about, George Osborne’s announcement last week to withdraw benefits to claimants – first for 1 month, then for 3 months. Am I the only landlord with social tenants?!

There are serious implications.

Here is an extract of a letter I am sending to Right Hon GO, and to Kris Hopkins, the NLA and any one else who will listen. If you have social tenants I’d urge you to do the same.

As a landlord in the private rented sector I house many tenants who are on benefits.
I know from experience that when a tenant’s benefits are withdrawn, all benefits are withdrawn, including housing benefit/local housing allowance.

In my experience this is always without notice to the landlord. The first that they will know is when the tenant does not pay their rent, or if they are on direct payment, when direct payment does not arrive.

However, I am sure that you will appreciate that in the meantime the mortgage and other bills still have to be paid by the landlord.

My concern is this.

Unless an element of the benefits is ring-fenced to pay the equivalent of housing benefit or local housing allowance, landlords such as myself, who house social tenants on benefits, could see rent payments not being made when benefits are withdrawn.

Under the current legal system there is a defined process by which landlords have to operate in order to gain possession of the property. In practice this can take anywhere months and, in exceptional circumstances, up to a year when a tenant does not comply with court orders and a bailiff needs to be appointed.

It is therefore entirely conceivable that if benefits are withdrawn from a claimant that the landlord will be left with a property with a non-paying tenant.

I would also like to point out that even if an element of the benefit were ring fenced to provide for rent, this would have to be paid directly to the landlord, otherwise I have no doubt that many tenants would use the money in lieu of job seekers allowance or whichever benefit has been withdrawn.

I would therefore urge yourself and Mr Hopkins to consider one or more of the following:

• In the event that benefits are withdrawn, either for one month, three months, or even longer, that an element of that benefit is ring fenced and paid direct to the landlord so that the tenant’s rent is covered.
• That legislation be passed to allow landlords to obtain fast track possession of the property where a tenant is has benefits withdrawn.
• That legislation be passed whereby mortgage lenders be required to waive mortgage payments where a tenant has benefits withdrawn and cannot, or will not, pay their rent.

Again I would urge you to consider these, as sadly, from experience, I know, and I am sure that many other landlords who house social tenants will agree, that the ‘punishment’ for not complying with the terms of claiming benefits will not fall upon the claimant, but will fall upon the landlord.

I would also urge the government, and particularly Mr Hopkins, to decide once and for all how you perceive the private rented sector, specifically in terms of housing social tenants through private landlords.

It seems to me that there is a lack of understanding within government as to the pressures and problems that private landlords face in housing tenants on benefits.

In this age of austerity where few council houses are being built, and the responsibility for housing social tenants’ falls mainly upon private landlords, it would be nice to think that the government support our efforts. Sadly, however, that does not seem to be the case as ideas are put forward, and legislation passed, which does little to help and much to hinder.

If it is still the intention of the government that social tenants are housed primarily by the private rented sector then can I humbly suggest that greater consultation is made with those at the sharp end who house social tenants, and that the ideas and legislation put forward encourage private landlords and not discourage.

Regards

Petergeorge osbourne


Section 8 notice procedure Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have served section 8 notice to my tenant because she was over 2 months behind with rent, I gave her another 1 months notice which ends on 12th Oct. She claims housing benefit and I e-mailed them last week to tell them shoe owes over £1,200 they said they will look into it?

I have been told that she has been to Egypt twice in the last couple of months, and she is planning on moving out there permanently to marry someone just after Christmas, but she doesn’t know that I know this.

She has told me she will see if council will find her another house but I know the council will tell her not to move until I get a court order. I was planning on applying for a court order which will cost me another £100 and then will probably have to get bailiffs in to evict her maybe sometime before Christmas, I was then planning on putting a small claim against her through the court which will cost me again and might be granted £5 a week or something similar? I will be lucky to get this done before she goes and I don’t think a CCJ will matter in Egypt. Section 8 notice procedure

Is there anything else I can do to get her out of the property? will council pay her rent and arrears? any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Andy


The National Audit Office criticise Universal Credit reforms Landlord News, Latest Articles

The National Audit Office has crticised Universal Credit welfare reforms as being badly managed, overambitious and poor value for money including £34 million written off on failed IT.

The spending watchdog said “risks were taken with the universal credit to hit targets, IT systems had limited functionality and an unfamiliar project management approach was used”.

These IT issues have delayed the introduction of Universal Credit although Ian Duncan Smith has confirmed the problems are now fixed and will be delivered within budget and timescales.

The National Audit Office said “At this early stage of the Universal Credit programme the department has not achieved value for money.”

“The department has delayed rolling out Universal Credit to claimants, has had weak control of the programme, and has been unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop.”

“These problems represent a significant setback to Universal Credit and raise wider concerns about the department’s ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress.”

The report said there was still potential for universal credit to bring about “considerable benefits” if the department put “realistic plans and strong discipline in place”.

Issues Found were:

  • Officials were “unable to explain” the reasoning behind the timescales or their feasibility
  • There were no “adequate measures” of progress
  • Computer systems lack the function to identify potentially fraudulent claims, relying instead on manual checks
  • £34m investment in IT systems has been written off
  • The Department for Work and Pensions lacked IT expertise and senior leadership
  • Delays to the roll out will reduce the expected benefits of reform

Expenditure on IT systems has accounted for more than 70% of the £425m spent to date but the report could not confirm if the infrastructure in place will support a national roll out.

Universal Credit has been hotly debated by readers in Property118 and widely condemned as a bad idea, by not making housing benefits directly payable to Landlords and in the trial areas used so far has resulted in a substantial increases in rent arrears.NAO

 


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