Housing Associations have told tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to pay their rent a month in advance, due to growing fears over Universal Credit.
Housing providers fear that tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit may default, or fall behind on their rent payments when they are transferred (moved) to Universal Credit, which is replacing six existing benefits and rolling them into one single monthly payment.
Housing Benefit is currently paid directly to social landlords in the majority of cases. Under the new Universal Credit system, housing support will be paid directly to the claimant.
Those claimants will then be expected to manage their own housing costs – a month in advance. In the minority of cases where a claimant may not be able or capable of managing their own housing costs, rent payments may still be paid directly to housing providers.
Six Town Housing based in Bury, Lancashire, has told its tenants that “you need to make additional rent payments now if you are affected by the introduction of universal credit. Otherwise, you are at risk of your rent account falling into rent arrears.”
The Town and Country Housing Association, who manage social housing properties across 22 local authorities, is asking its tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to pay an extra £14.60 every month, until they are a month in credit. “This will ensure that when you transfer to universal credit you will not be in arrears which could put your tenancy at risk,” the Housing Association said.
Town and Country also refused to reimburse a tenant who had wrongly been asked to pay the controversial ‘bedroom tax’. The tenant was owed £362, however the Housing Association said it would be in the “best interests” of the tenant for the over-paid rent amount to remain on their account.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s chief executive, told the Guardian newspaper:
“It’s for householders to manage their finances, not landlords or housing associations. There’s a difference between advising people to be financially prepared and doing it for them, and it would be concerning if the latter were the case.”
Find out more: The Guardian