Posts with tag: housing benefit

Number of households having benefits capped more than doubles during pandemic

Published On: November 30, 2020 at 9:35 am

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Categories: Tenant News

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released the latest experimental statistics on how many households had their benefits capped between April 2013 and August 2020.

The key findings from the release are:

  • As of August 2020, 170,000 households had their benefits capped, this is an 8% increase from the previous quarter
  • Since the start of the pandemic, the number of households capped has risen from 79,000 in February 2020 to 170,000 in August 2020
  • 59,000 households had their benefits capped for the first time this quarter
  • On average households are capped by £57 per week

You can read the full Government report here.

Commenting on the statistics Jon Sparkes, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “With the full extent of the economic impact of the pandemic coming to light and the country facing a steep climb to recovery, these figures show just how dire the situation is for people who’ve lost their job and are now battling to pay their rent. 

“Despite assurances that the nine-month grace period would protect people who’ve just lost their jobs from having their benefits capped, we know that for thousands of people this much-needed respite will be coming to an end right before Christmas, leaving many worrying about how they’re going to keep a roof over their head or put food on the table. 

“With the jobs market showing little sign of improvement, we urgently need the government to extend the grace period so that families don’t start the new year with the very real threat of eviction. We also need to see people rough sleeping exempt from the cap so that councils can move people out of expensive emergency accommodation quickly, and into safe and secure homes they can afford.”

Government announces new housing benefit cap for next year

Published On: November 27, 2020 at 9:03 am

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The amount that tenants can claim from the Government to support rent payments will be cut, as a new benefits cap has been announced.

According to a report by the Office for Budget Responsibility, published alongside the Spending Review this week, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will be frozen in cash terms from next year. This means that the rate will fall below the current level which is set to cover the lowest 30% of rents in any given area.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) is warning that the announcement represents a kick in the teeth for both renters and landlords struggling with the consequence of rent arrears through no fault of their own.

The association highlights that the current rate was set in April to help renters whose incomes had been affected by the pandemic to meet the cost of their rent. A recent analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that 5% (200,000) households in the private rented sector are in arrears. 30% of all private rented households are worried about paying their rent in the next three months, compared to 19% immediately before COVID-19.

The NRLA says that the vast majority of private landlords have done everything they can to support struggling tenants. However, given that most landlords are individuals and not property tycoons it will become increasingly difficult to keep affected tenancies going without adequate financial support to pay off rent arrears.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA, said: “Many renters and landlords are struggling with the consequence of rent arrears through no fault of their own yet the Government is failing to take the action needed to address this.

“Whilst the Chancellor has spoken about the need to support those who find themselves homeless, it would be much better for all concerned to provide the funds needed to sustain tenancies in the first place.”

Are young renters being forced to choose between rent debt and health?

Published On: November 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

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With rules limiting what young people can claim for housing benefit, the NRLA says they are being forced to choose between racking up debts and risking their health.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) points out that those under the age of 35 relying on benefit to pay their rent for the first time will find that support will only be available to cover the cost of a room in a shared house.

The NRLA is warning that this will force many young renters to choose between building unsustainable debts or moving into cheaper, shared housing. People might be forced to either move home in the middle of lockdown restrictions or potentially end up living with strangers with all the health risks that this poses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to Welfare Minister Will Quince, the NRLA has called on the Government to urgently adopt the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee and suspend the Shared Accommodation Rate rule. The NRLA argues that this should be for a period of at least a year.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “It is unacceptable that younger renters are being forced to choose between building debts or compromising their health during a pandemic.

“Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything they can to support renters whose finances have been hit due to the virus, it cannot be right that landlords and tenants are left to muddle through without greater support.  

“If money can be found to subsidise meals out, the Government must find the finances needed to support tenants, and in turn landlords, to pay off rent arrears, sustain tenancies and protect people’s health.” 

The call comes as government statistics show a significant increase in the proportion of Universal Credit claimants in the younger age brackets. In the four weeks to the 8th October, the proportion of claimants aged between 16 and 24 was just over 27%, up from 21% in the four weeks to the 12th March.

No DSS policy ‘unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability’

Published On: August 13, 2020 at 8:13 am

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Categories: Law News,Lettings News

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Specialist property litigation firm Hägen Wolf is warning landlords and letting agents of the consequences for discriminating against benefit claimants.

A landmark ruling in 2018 held that a blanket ban on renting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit is unlawful and amounts to indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex and disability under Sections 19 and 29 of the Equality Act 2010. The evidence presented to the court demonstrated that women and disabled people are the groups most likely to be reliant on housing benefits.

The firm states that despite this 63% of private landlords either operating an outright ban on letting to tenants receiving housing benefit or saying they prefer not to let to this group, according to a 2020 YouGov survey.

Matt Pugh, managing partner of Hägen Wolf, comments: “While County Court decisions are not binding, it is likely that this case will be relied upon in similar cases in future and should there be an appeal to the High Court, the appeal decision would be binding.” 

The Claimant’s legal representation was arranged by charity Shelter who have supported several similar cases which have settled out of court. 

It was in October 2018 that an unnamed tenant was told her landlord wanted the property back for a family member to live. A ‘no-fault’ Section 21 notice was then served.

While looking for somewhere else to live, on 26th November 2018 she saw an advert for a two-bedroom property in York for £795 per month. The Claimant contacted the Defendant to request a viewing. She told them that she had excellent references, payment history, and worked part-time while receiving some Housing Benefit. 

Her request was denied because the Defendant agency did not accept applications from prospective tenants on housing benefit. The Claimant queried this and was told that “rather than it being on an ad hoc basis, we have had a policy for many years not to accept housing benefit tenants.”

In her ruling, Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark said that “rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, contrary to […] the Equality Act 2010”.

Pugh concludes: “The practice of excluding potential tenants simply because they are on housing benefits is widespread and this issue will now have to be addressed by landlords and agents alike.

“The ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to review their advertising material and vetting policies to ensure that renters who rely on housing benefits are no longer automatically barred from renting from private landlords. 

“There is, however, nothing to stop landlords pricing such tenants out of the market or relying on other non-discriminatory criteria.” 

Mayor of London calls for changes to benefits system to help tenants

Published On: April 23, 2020 at 8:14 am

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The Mayor of London has called for changes to the benefits system so that the cost of private rents for tenants adversely affected by coronavirus are covered.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has commented: “Recent polling has indicated that just 2% of private tenants have had to stop paying rent due to the pandemic whilst 78% have not had to make any changes to their living situation. This shows that the vast majority of tenancies are continuing as normal, which we welcome.

“For those tenants who are struggling, by far the best solution is to ensure they are supported to prevent arrears building. We, therefore, welcome the Mayor’s calls to increase the Local Housing Allowance.

“In addition, we repeat our call on the Government to scrap the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit immediately and ensure tenants can have the housing element of the Credit paid directly to their landlord if they wish. This would provide tenants and landlords with the confidence that rents are covered and debts will not arise.”

Looking to the future, Beadle said: “Whilst the current situation is challenging for everyone, we need to avoid frightening households needlessly about the security of their homes.

“The vast majority of landlords are doing everything possible to support their tenants and sustain their tenancies at this difficult time. We will continue to ensure they have all the guidance and support they need to continue to do so both now and into the future.”

Universal Credit and Housing Benefit support announced for renters

Published On: March 24, 2020 at 9:31 am

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The Government has made the decision to ensure the Local Housing Allowance is guaranteed to cover at least 30% of market rents in a claimant’s area. This has been recognised as a vital measure to support tenants and landlords. 

Combined with grants to cover up to 80% of wages, this package will go a long way to sustain tenancies.

In a joint statement, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and the National Landlords Association (NLA) have said: “We warmly welcome today’s announcement by the Chancellor. It will give tenants and landlords much greater confidence that rents can be paid through the ongoing crisis which is clearly preferable to deferring rents through rent payment holidays.

“We will continue to work constructively with the Government to ensure everything possible is done to support tenants and landlords through these difficult times.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “We warmly welcome the steps Government are taking to create a proper safety net through the welfare system that protects families from losing their homes.

“The move to increase housing benefit so that it covers the bottom third of rents will ensure that people are not pushed into homelessness during this outbreak. The need for this cannot be understated – families must have the security of a safe, permanent home.

Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, comments: “The Government’s package of support for business should hopefully result in fewer redundancies. But many renters have told us they have already been laid off and will struggle to pay next month’s rent.

“Combined with the pledge to suspend evictions, raising LHA to cover the bottom 30% of homes will make a difference to many who are losing income.

“But the five-week wait to claim Universal Credit will push people into arrears, and the increased housing element is not enough to overcome the shortfalls those who are paying higher rents will face. 

“To assure renters who won’t benefit from the job retention scheme, the government must make Universal Credit available at the point of need, raise LHA to at least the average rent, and stop landlords raising rents during the crisis.”