Housing chiefs’ warning on effect of flagship Tory welfare reform
Ministers are coming under intense pressure to put the brakes on the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, following damning new evidence that it is leaving thousands of low-paid workers unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.
The Observer can reveal a catalogue of concerns from landlords, councils and charities about universal credit, which have been handed to a parliamentary inquiry investigating the programme.
With the accelerated roll-out of the new system just weeks away, some warn that rent arrears among tenants receiving universal credit are running at three, four or even five times the level of those on the old system. Three councils whose tenants have already been moved on to universal credit said they had built up about £8m in rent arrears. Croydon, Hounslow and Southwark said that more than 2,500 tenants claiming it were now at risk of eviction.
Some food banks reported that marriages had broken down as a result of the extra pressures of waiting for payments, while some landlords are now choosing not to accept tenants on universal credit.
Figures obtained by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act also show that half of all council tenants across 105 local authorities who receive the housing element of universal credit – which replaces housing benefit – are at least a month behind on their rent, with 30% two months behind.
By contrast, less than 10% of council tenants on housing benefit are a month behind on their rent, with under 5% running more than two months behind.
read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/16/universal-credit-rent-arrears-soar?
Charities demand action to tackle toll of soaring housing costs, welfare cuts and ‘no fault’ evictions.
A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants.
More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.
High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant.
read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/100-tenants-a-day-lose-homes-as-rising-rents-and-benefit-freeze-hit/
Landlords are refusing to take on tenants who are in the process of claiming for benefits.
At a meeting of the Great Yarmouth branch of the Eastern Landlords Association last month, members said they would not take on new tenants in the process of making a claim for Universal Credit.
Chairman of the association, Paul Cunningham, said some claimants were waiting ten to 12 weeks for their first payment, forcing them to go into arrears. He also said there have been a number of evictions solely down to Universal Credit issues.
He added: “The introduction of Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth last April has proved to be disastrous with landlords now refusing to take any such claimants and evictions rising due to arrears caused by the system.”
Housing benefit used to be paid directly to landlords by the local authority.
However under the changes it is now up to claimants to pay their rent to their landlords.
During the roll out of Universal Credit there have been issues that the claims process has caused long delays for some people.
Mr Cunningham added: “Only if the claim process is radically altered will this situation change. Housing benefit tenants were always accepted because the council managed the claim and would liaise with landlords, now that the process is managed by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), they refuse to communicate with the landlords even after being told the tenant is in danger of eviction.”
Some landlords have been forced to evict tenants and in the most extreme cases meaning some people have been made homeless.
read more here: http://www.greatyarmouthmercury.co.uk/news/landlords_refuse_to_take_on_new_universal_credit_claimants_in_great_yarmouth_1_4891290
Private renters account for 96 per cent of the rise in homelessness since 2010
The number of private renters being made homeless is at a near-record high and has more than trebled under the Conservative government, an analysis of new official statistics by The Independent has found.
Thousands of renters each month are being deemed officially homeless by local councils after being evicted by private landlords and struggling to pay rents that have risen across the country by more 20 per cent since 2010.
The figures show a huge rise in people becoming homeless at the end of assured short hold tenancies (ASTs) – the most common agreement used by private landlords – since 2010.
In the year to September 2016, 18,820 private renting households were made homeless, compared with just 5,580 in the year to September 2010.
Critics accused Government ministers of “sitting on their hands” while renters face increasingly stark consequences if they fail to keep up with soaring rents.
Private renters at the end of their tenancies made up just one in seven homeless households in 2010. Today, that has risen to one in three, meaning the proportion has more than doubled in just six years.
Private tenants being evicted by a landlord at the end of a tenancy is now the most common cause of homelessness.
read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/private-renters-homeless-trebled-2010-rent-conserative-government-david-cameron-theresa-may-london-a7502511.html
According to statistics on the homeless in the UK, over 2,500 children are illegally housed in bed and breakfast establishments.
The statistics illustrate that 1,300 families that included children staying in B&Bs over 6 weeks which is a 24% increase compared to last year.
The law states that councils may only house families in B&Bs when left with no other choice, and even at that, for a duration no longer than six weeks. B&Bs are not equipped for cooking and laundry, and also lack space and privacy.
The problem is that councils are recognizing and increasing amount of families as homeless, which makes finding proper accommodation increasingly difficult.
The statistics show that 117,000 children, whom are part of 74,630 families, are placed in temporary homes in England. Approximately one third of these households are placed in temporary accommodation away from their areas. By far, most of these families are from London. The main cause of homelessness was eviction.
A charity called Shelter has argued that real figures relating to homelessness are downplayed and that it is a bigger issue than the government makes it out to be.
Another NGO, The Chartered Institute of Housing, said that homelessness is increasing.
London councils have resorted to putting families in Travelodge hotels, buying small housing units, and buying homes in other boroughs.
read more: http://factschronicle.com/councils-placing-families-in-bbs-unlawfully-as-homelessness-problem-grows-129.html
Keiley Messham, from Rhewl, has had her support cut from £124 a week to just £34 since benefit cap brought in
A single mum of four says she and her children are facing homelessness after her housing benefit was slashed by 75% this month.
Keiley Messham, 27, from Rhewl, received a letter from HMRC informing her that her housing benefit has been cut from £124 a week to £34, after the government brought in new benefit caps which affect people receiving housing benefit or Universal Credits.
Keiley says she had no idea her housing benefit was going to be reduced, and says she and her children will be forced to move from their privately rented home where they have happily lived for the past five years.
read more here: http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/benefit-cap-housing-north-wales-12228343
The Reverend Paul Nicholson writes:
I met John* after his three month sanction had ended. He lived in a fifth floor council flat and was wondering whether to throw himself off the balcony. He had a history of depression and I do not like to speculate what would have happened if he had been left on his own.
He had been sanctioned for three months by a job centre for attending a job-related interview a day late. His GP immediately sent him to the NHS for twelve sessions of therapy. Rent and council tax arrears had piled up because the job centre’s computer is connected to the local council’s computer. When John’s £73.10 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) was stopped, the job centre’s computer sent a signal to the council’s computer telling it that John was no longer eligible for JSA. That signal automatically cancelled his eligibility for housing and council tax benefits, which were then stopped by the council’s computer.
Then the bailiffs called at 7.30 in the morning demanding £400 the next day for a TV licence fine that John did not know existed. He called me at 8 am and I called the bailiffs telling them that they should not waste time enforcing that fine because we were taking the case back to the magistrates to seek remission of the debt and their fees. I also reminded them that there is guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice which advises them to return to the magistrate’s court cases involving “vulnerable situations.”
Anyone summoned to court, who attends without legal representation, is allowed a McKenzie Friend; so called because the person who won the right to a friend in court was called McKenzie. I have supported people that way for many years. I went to court with John and they let him off £135 of unpaid fine and dismissed the bailiffs without their fees.