Landlords refuse to take on new Universal Credit claimants in Great Yarmouth

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

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Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court

Excellent article by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi. I’ve picked some extracts to show here, and there’s a link to the whole article at the end of this post.

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Recently diagnosed with depression, Gemma is receiving cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of counselling.

Last year three of her children were taken away. When their empty bedrooms were declared spare rooms, she was charged an under-occupancy fee, taken directly from her housing benefit. Since the  bedroom tax, as it’s known, was introduced in 2013, working age claimants who live in social rented housing deemed too large for their needs have lost between 14 and 25 per cent of their housing benefit.

Gemma didn’t have the extra to cover the shortfall in her rent. She fell behind, eventually accruing a debt of nearly £1,748. The housing association landlord has threatened eviction.

……………………………………………………………..

Andrea, a heavily pregnant mother-of-three, sits down at the small desk. She couldn’t find the extra £14 a week to pay her bedroom tax. Now she owes nearly £1000.

The housing association is seeking an outright possession order. If the judge rules against her today, she is likely to be homeless when her baby is born.

……………………………………………………………..

Jocelyn had an agreement with the landlord to pay £20 a fortnight toward rent arrears of £1,100. She paid the money from her Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), which was £72.40 a week. Then, one month ago, she was sanctioned and her JSA money stopped. It is not clear why.

…………………………………………………………….

Read what happened on their day in court here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/how-to-lose-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court

 

Rogue Landlords and the Benefit Cap.

Nine billion pounds of taxpayers’ money goes to private landlords every year in housing benefit.

And the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that at least £3bn of that money is spent on poor quality accommodation annually.

BBC Panorama showed a programme last night called ‘The Great Housing Benefit Scandal’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32381471) This is not news to me.
Whilst delivering leaflets in this area of London terraced housing,  I find that many are subdivided into 4 or more flats. One has 11 letterboxes. These houses are built as 3 bed residences with a box room. The area is green and leafy and I had no idea before leafleting that this area was so overcrowded, I’ve been living here for decades.

I have visited houses nearby in London where the building has been subdivided into tiny boxes.  Tenants in these tiny boxes tell me they are paying £1,200 per month each which is our tax money spent in the form of housing benefit. This also leaves no money for them to live on, because of the benefit cap. All their permitted benefits go straight to the landlord.

Because of the selling off of council houses, there is nowhere else to put vulnerable people in this part of London. These places are filled with young single mothers, families and the disabled. Nobody else stands a chance of being housed at all locally. This is all due to greedy landlords, the selling off of council homes, and the benefit cap. Two out of three of these causes are policies brought in by the Conservatives.
Here’s an article by the excellent Kate Belgrave published in March http://www.katebelgrave.com/…/the-real-scroungers…/
The house next door to mine, once a family home, is now 4 flats containing 11 people, with no fire exit from the top floor. The tenants are frightened of a potential fire, they have small children and live in the converted attic. But they cannot tell the council because they’ll just be evicted, and its nigh on impossible to find an affordable flat in London, no matter how cramped and unsafe. This is a working family, not on benefits.
And its not as if the government doesn’t know. Here’s a Panorama program saying the same thing from 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/…/fron…/newsid_9122000/9122529.stm This was before the benefit cap.
The benefit cap means that NOBODY on benefits can afford a private rented flat in Inner London, or most of outer London. There are no council flats, they are being destroyed in their thousands and replaced by ‘luxury apartments’. The local authorities are being forced to satisfy their statutory obligations to house the vulnerable by placing them into slum rat holes, or move them hundreds of miles away from their support networks to where rents are cheaper. This is pushing up rents outside of London, too.
The Residential Landlords Association agrees there’s a problem, but says we don’t need more legislation. They say the existing legislation is perfectly adequate, the problem is that savage cuts to Local Authorities budgets means they cant enforce the laws that already exist. Last week the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that over the course of this Parliament, the budgets of local authority enforcement departments have been cut by over 37% per head of population in England. http://news.rla.org.uk/private-rental-market-is-being…/

My local community self help group, Kilburn Unemployed Workers, has had to set up a sister group just for housing, because of the terrible situations people are telling us about every week. The local council is useless. The local Citizens Advice Bureaux  have been closed down. The charities are starved of funds and most cant take on cases, only ‘give advice’.

The foodbanks are thriving.

Argotina

New rules in the Universal Credit scheme could leave 200,000 claimants waiting six months for their benefits

The changes have caused concern over a potential rise in rent arrears.

( I found this on Landlordnews.co.uk, so clearly it is of concern to Landlords!)

The new regulations were laid in Parliament last week and have been described by social housing providers as likely to lead to an increase in difficulty and evictions.

At present, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) calculates a person’s Universal Credit monthly. If they earn over a certain threshold that month, their entitlement is reduced or removed. Under the new rules, the DWP will take six months of previous earnings into account.

This means that for a claimant who earns a higher amount in one month, but nothing the next month, they may be unable to claim for up to six months. The change only applies to those making repeating claims within six months of a previous claim ending.

The DWP predicts that up to 200,000 claimants will be affected by the change when it comes into force on 6th April 2016. This would be almost ten times the number hit by the £26,000-a-year benefit cap. The change will see claimants receiving irregular income having to plan and set savings aside for when they are not working, as they may not be in receipt of their benefits.

Responding to a previous consultation on the rules, the National Housing Federation says: “Any additional delay in tenants’ ability to access the right support will further increase the possibility of poverty.”1

London housing provider Peabody said that there will be an “obvious area of hardship” for claimants who work seasonally. They added: “With the accruing rent arrears, there is every chance of people facing eviction.”1

Other groups expressing worry are Community Housing Cymru, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Golden Gates Housing Trust, and Wheatley Group.

Last week, the Government announced that it has changed the finalised regulations to let claimants earn up to £300 more in one month than the next without being affected, halving the amount of people expected to be hit. The changes hope to stop those who can choose when they get paid from maximising Universal Credit.

1 http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/policy/welfare-reform/universal-credit/new-universal-credit-rules-will-hit-200000-people/7008572.article?adfesuccess=1

OAP couple living on the streets after dispute over pension payments

AN ELDERLY couple are living rough on the streets of Bournemouth, prompting shocked reactions from charity workers.

The two pensioners were evicted from their privately-rented home in Charminster in April, and have been sleeping rough since then – relying on soup kitchens to eat – while an issue with their pension payments is resolved.

It is believed that after the pensions system changed, they were told they had to have their pensions paid electronically into a bank account. Because they were unable to carry on collecting their money in their usual way, they were unable to pay their rent.

According to Bournemouth Council, they have been offered emergency accommodation but have refused.

Bath-based charity volunteer Robin Richmond came across the couple, aged 84 and 75, on the seafront earlier this month while he was helping a local church get set up to assist local homeless people. He described the meeting as ‘an eye opener’. “They have helped people through voluntary organisations and it is a real pity that in their hour of need they have been left to live on the streets,” he said. At a time when people are so concerned about the misuse of benefits it appears that the system is radically failing a couple who, on the face of it, we should be honouring and not forgetting.”

 Bournemouth Borough Council’s strategic housing manager, Kelly Ansell, said: “The couple’s situation was recently assessed and they were offered emergency accommodation but this was refused. We would urge them to make further contact with the council’s housing team.”

Sarah Carroll, head of community services at Age UK Bournemouth, also urged the couple to get in touch. It shouldn’t really get to this point, it is quite outrageous,” she said. She said sometimes elderly people were reluctant to speak to social services due to pride, stubbornness or a desire not to be a burden. I understand a lot of people have tried to engage with them, clearly they can’t sort this out on their own.”

Bournemouth Town Centre Parish Team Rector Reverend Dr Ian Terry said: “I am shocked to hear this. Homelessness is a blight on our society – nobody should be without a home. It is particularly shocking to hear that they are such an elderly couple.”

He said he wasn’t surprised to hear that the council had offered practical assistance, but added: “What the sad example of this couple shows is that, although things are being done, they are not being done quickly enough, and there is a need for further action.”

The Daily Echo spoke to the couple, who said they would prefer to remain anonymous.

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/11337808.OAP_couple_living_on_the_streets/

Keighley MP under fire over comments about tenants on housing benefit

KEIGHLEY MP Kris Hopkins is under fire after giving landlords the green light to kick out tenants on housing benefit.

Labour reacted with anger after Mr Hopkins, the housing minister, argued it was a “commercial decision” that any private landlord had the right to make.

He said: “If they actually decide they don’t want to have somebody on housing benefit in the future, that’s a perfectly legitimate thing for them to do.” The comment came after Panorama unearthed new figures revealing the number of evictions from privately-rented houses is rising sharply.

Emma Reynolds, Labour’s housing spokesman, described the attitude as “callous” when tenants were victims of a cost-of-living squeeze and a failure to build enough homes. She said: “It is appalling that David Cameron’s housing minister thinks it’s acceptable for someone to be evicted just because they are receiving social security.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hopkins stood by his comments, but added: “All landlords legally have to operate within the terms of their lease and every tenant must be treated fairly and without discrimination. The number of people in the private rented sector on housing benefit nationally has risen in the past two years, showing that landlords are letting to benefit claimants.”