Allow Housing Benefit to be paid direct to landlords under Universal Credit

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In the property rental world, things don't always run smoothly. We’ve all heard the horror stories from both sides. It's not surprising that sometimes things go wrong. The rental market is huge.

But, equally substantial is the proportion of landlord income derived from Housing Benefit. Not all landlords accept Housing Benefit but those who do realise it's a source of regular rental income. Housing Benefit plays a big part in facilitating both a home for a tenant and a return for a landlord who is providing that home.

One of the landlord’s main concerns is rent arrears. Some tenants fall behind on rent because they are not willing or capable of managing their own finances properly or they’re tempted to spend the rent money on other things. This can eventually lead to disastrous consequences for both landlord and tenant. Tenants should know better but often don't. That has to be fixed. But it takes time. Councils and support agencies work tirelessly to educate their clients. Yet, for many tenants, managing their Housing Benefit remains a burden. For many years now, one solution has been to allow Housing Benefit to be paid directly to landlords. This hurts noone. It helps everyone. Landlords and letting agents, tenants, council and support workers, they can all see the benefits of direct payments.

But now, Universal Credit threatens to take a backwards step by refusing direct payments to landlords. The reasoning behind the move is sound enough. Make people more responsible and incentivised to manage their finances properly. That may work for some but not for all. They say they are giving more choice to the tenants. A choice is always between 2 or more options. Universal Credit wants Housing Benefit to be paid to the client only, along with all other benefits. So that’s not a choice. A choice is to allow the tenants to decide who gets payment, the tenant or the landlord.

Direct payments are possible if the rent is in arrears but by that time it's too late, the damage is done and the landlord has lost trust. That risks an eviction and a landlord who will no longer accept Housing Benefit tenants.

Housing benefit tenants are viewed by landlords as less of a risk if rent is paid direct to the landlord. Indeed, many landlords stipulate direct payment as a condition of the tenancy. Take that away and fewer tenants will be accepted in the first place and, of those who are, many more will end up in arrears, there'll be more evictions, more homelessness, more human misery and more pressure on third-party support agencies with the resulting drain on their budgets.

Councils and other agencies all over the UK are desperately trying to assist individuals, couples and families into private rented accommodation, often with great success despite limited resources. But a large part of that success is due to the availability of Housing Benefit and direct rental payments. If tenants had the right to request direct payments, councils working with them would have a greater chance of helping them get housed.

VOTE NOW to allow Universal Credit recipients to retain the right to choose whether the Housing Benefit portion of their benefits is paid to them or direct to the landlord/letting agent.

Why should I support this? This change of policy affects everyone who rents regardless of their source of income. Job security is not guaranteed. Any one of us might need to rely on Housing Benefit in the future. And if we do, having the ability to make direct payments to our landlord may actually save our tenancy and prevent our own homelessness.



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