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RESULTS OF LANDLORD SURVEY
We recently asked our members to take part in a survey regarding their experiences. A number responded with concerns about Housing Benefit. We put their concerns forward to the Housing Benefit section and they have responded accordingly.
Please see Questions from members in black below and responses from Housing benefit in blue.
I am in the process of evicting several tenants.
Not paying rent is the major issue - key is the housing benefits department. I get so many letters cancelling HB for changes of circumstance then re-instating it. Also the delay in processing is lengthy - I keep getting overpayment demands - several months after the event - tenants leave then lie about the dates and I am powerless to stop the money being taken back.
More responsibility needs to be placed on tenant - Not receiving money cos that will never happen - If you have no money then someone gives you £500- £1000 no hope in hell you will pay it to landlord - not responsibility for retaining tenancy - e.g. keeping yards clean, noise abatement, and giving accurate leaving dates - I have had tenants run 2 houses for months and then say the other property was their main residence - how am I supposed to know if they are running 2 houses - If HB more up to date these issues would be resolved much quicker.
Where a change is reported we would cancel or suspend benefit until we have the correct information. This is required by the benefit regulations and has not changed for quite some years. Once the relevant info is received we either recalculate the benefit or see if we can reduce an overpayment.
The law requires us to notify the landlord of such changes where we are paying them. Processing times at present are 28 days for a new claim and 10 days for a change in circumstances. Often this is because we are waiting for information from the tenant. This is longer than it was taking us a few years ago but has remained at about this level for the last couple of years, with actually an improvement on last year.
Where we decide to recover an overpayment from a landlord, they have the right to appeal the overpayment, so if they disagree with the date we have used for a tenant vacating this is the route they should follow. Appeal rights are set out on the letters we send them. It is often difficult where a tenant is telling us one date and the landlord another. In some cases, the landlord does not have good evidence of a tenant remaining in a property (i.e. they have not visited regularly/chased up the keys/do not actually have any record of rent collection at all) and on some occasions does not even know the tenant has left. On the other hand, some landlords are extremely efficient at telling us when tenants leave, and have good records of when they have visited/collected rent etc. We have to make a decision based on the best information we have.
I have an issue with my tenant at present with regards to paying their rent or not paying in this case. They currently have outstanding rent of around £700.00 which she pays back at £12.50 a week!!
The reason being:
- She separated from her partner and had all monies stopped, when it got sorted she got nothing in arrears.
- She got back with her partner, all monies stopped, when it got sorted, nothing in arrears
- She started work, monies stopped...again that is sorted but she is not being paid any arrears of her housing benefit!!!
I have requested that I be paid direct, but apparently as she does not owe 2 months this is not an option. It seems that we receive a payment just before this would be the case.
We have decided that if this continues that we will have no option but to serve her a "no fault notice" and get new tenants.
I hope this helps with study.
Difficult to comment without specific details.
The regs say we must pay the tenant. There are some exceptions and this is where the tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears with rent. We can also consider changing to safeguard a tenant and protect a tenancy, we would for this need evidence not just of 8 weeks arrears but of persistent inability to manage the tenancy financially and an indication the tenancy is at risk as a direct result of this, or evidence that the tenant has difficulty managing their financial affairs, such as evidence of other debt/persistent and long term rent arrears, rent arrears for previous properties, bankruptcy etc. Again it would depend on the circumstances of the case.
I am experiencing it a lot at the moment, main reason is the amount of times council suspend LHA and time it takes to get reinstated, more then not they don’t back date and then it takes them so long to reinstate that too late to appeal.
I have several tenants who are good tenants from what day to next suddenly have 8 weeks or 10 weeks rent arrears.
If we are unable to “backdate” or pay benefit for a particular period this is usually because the tenant does not qualify, has failed to supply information we needed to assess the claim, or has failed to reapply on time after a break in their benefit. In order to backdate, they have to have a good reason for delaying an application. This must be more than simply, I didn’t know I had to or I didn’t do it on time.
We have not had to evict anyone for some time. When we did it was largely due to the tenant not managing her finances and being in debt. She also told us her benefits were stopped when they were in fact being paid - something which was difficult to clarify with the council due to data protection. It would have been helpful for the rent to be paid directly to us. I know that this is national policy but if there was a way of paying rent directly to landlords we would have lost much less money and potentially avoided the eviction.
They are correct it is a national policy and set out on the housing benefit regulations – see above for circumstances generally when we can pay landlord.
My tenant, as a single mum with 6 children, has fallen foul of the £2000 per month cut off. Prior to this - because of problems that she has had in the past with non-payment of rent - her HB was paid direct to me. It still is, but it is now £37 per week short of her total rent so as from 1 September, she has had to pay £37 per week direct to me. It has happened, eventually. I've now got her to complete a monthly standing order which I am hoping might make things easier, but it has clearly been a challenge for her to recognise that she now has to pay at least this bill herself out of a reduced income. I have to say that our situation was helped because her neighbour and friend was evicted in September for non-payment of rent, and has had to spread her family out between friends and family thus highlighting the disaster of losing the roof over your head.
I am very uneasy about what will happen when she has to claim Universal Credit and then has to pay all her bills out of one monthly payment. So no problems yet but a few hiccups along the way - and we're only two months into it!
We have been working with claimants affected by the benefit cap to try and give them budgeting and debt advice where they will engage with us. We have also been trying to work with them to see if we can assist them into work. However, some of the people affected have very few options because of their personal circumstances. I share this landlords’ concerns about how some people will manage when Universal Credit is introduced.