The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) 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.
Duncan Smith said: “Universal Credit is a vision for a new welfare settlement; a welfare state fit for the 21st century; a testament to the hard work of Jobcentres and local authorities that we are now implementing it. It has now rolled out in the north west of England – to couples, shortly to families, to more than one in eight jobcentres by Christmas – safely and securely as I always said.
“Today 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. Secure national delivery, yet at the same time, delivering that life change at a local level; strengthening community partnerships, helping vulnerable households. Not just helping the economy but reducing child poverty as well.”
This marks a significant acceleration in one of the government’s biggest reforms. Universal Credit brings together six benefits and tax credits into one payment. The new service is already available in over 50 Jobcentres in England, Wales and Scotland, and will be available in nearly 100 Jobcentres by Christmas.
The RLA says the announcement is very important news for housing associations and landlords alike.
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 Irvine is warning landlords that there is little point in conjecture, Universal Credit is coming and it’s time to make sure you are ready.
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 Irvine, 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. Irvine 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.