Universal Credit: Helping claimants pay their rent
31 Jan 2020 Agents   General   Landlords  

Universal Credit: Helping claimants pay their rent

In the vast majority of cases, Universal Credit claimants pay their rent on time and in full, but there will be times when a little extra help is needed. Fiona Jones – DWP Group Director for Wales, Work and Health – discusses the support available to landlords to help keep things on track.

Universal Credit can include an amount towards a claimant’s housing costs, and this is usually paid to the claimant, who organises payments to their landlord themselves

But of course there will be cases where a tenant needs a bit more support to be able to pay their rent on time, every time, or when arrears build up that need to be taken care of.

The DWP offer a range of options to help landlords and claimants quickly address any issues around paying rent.

The Housing queries routeway is your gateway to all this help. It includes:

  • telephone numbers and general guidance
  • links to online information; specific content on topics such as deductions, service charges and third party payments 
  • forms to request a managed payment
  • forms to apply for help with rent arrears
  • and the Universal Credit landlord engagement newsletter

By choosing the right route for your query, you can access the best support in the quickest way to get your issue solved as efficiently as possible.

Sometimes this will just be a matter of you or your tenant finding out how a particular aspect of Universal Credit works. At other times it could involve you speaking to your tenant’s case manager to agree direct payment arrangements. Whatever your query is, DWP can help resolve it.

Please be aware that before DWP can speak to you about your tenant’s claim, consent from your tenant will need to be given in order to share their information. The tenant can provide this through their online journal or by calling the Universal Credit Service Centre. To find out more about this, including what information you’ll need when calling the Service Centre, see the guides to resolving queries and consent and disclosure.

Paying rent at the start of a claim

You may have concerns about tenants paying their rent when they first move onto Universal Credit, so measures have been put in place to help make sure rent continues to be paid.

Universal Credit claimants will usually receive their first payment after their first monthly assessment period. Until then, they can apply for an interest-free advance, which they will need to pay back from their Universal Credit payments – usually over 12 months. The maximum amount they can borrow will depend on their circumstances, and will be up to their estimated first Universal Credit payment.

You may also want to let your Universal Credit tenants know that they may be eligible for a Local Council Tax Reduction or a discretionary housing payment from their local authority.

Direct rent payments to landlords

If your tenant isn’t able to manage their money themselves, or has built one month’s rent arrears over more than two months, DWP can arrange a Managed Payment to the Landlord. This pays money towards housing costs straight to the landlord, and can be considered at the start of a Universal Credit claim, or at any point during it.

For more details about when a Managed Payment to Landlord can be requested, see the guide to Alternative Payment Arrangements, which includes the tier factors that enable a managed payment to be put in place.

Rent arrears

If a tenant falls into rent arrears to the value of two months’ rent, Universal Credit can help recover those arrears. As long as the tenant remains in the property, an amount can come direct to you from their monthly Universal Credit payment until the arrears are paid off.

For much more about what Universal Credit means for landlords and how you can help make sure rent is paid on time, click here.