The Universal Credit (UC) system that replaced six means-tested benefits and tax credits is causing people to be unnecessarily evicted, according to Dorset’s biggest private landlord.
DWP Housing Partnership said that while in principle the new welfare scheme has merit, the realities are that its poorest tenants are suffering.
Part of the system involves tenants receiving their own housing element of Universal Credit so they can pay the rent themselves – helping them to take control of their own finances and budgeting.
It allows for the Department of Work and Pensions to return to paying landlords directly if a tenant falls behind – but the delays are so long that people are being evicted.
Dave Phillips, DWP manager, said: “If a tenant falls behind in their rent we send in our rent and support teams to try and help.
“After two months of non-payment we can apply for an ‘Alternative Payment Arrangement’ so the Job Centre pays the rent directly to us. And this is what the tenants want because it’s easier for them.
“But the Job Centre that runs the system can take many months sorting this out, by which time there are huge arrears and ultimately we have to evict.
“We are finding it extremely difficult and very frustrating working with the new system that is simply not doing what it should.
“Already we have evicted two of our tenants and more are pending. It is not in our interest or our tenants’ interests for them to get into this situation.
“More and more people are being brought into Universal Credit and it looks like it will only get worse.
“In the run-up to Christmas things will be more difficult for our tenants as they have increased pressure on their budgets.
“This situation occurred previously when Local Housing Allowance was introduced, which again was originally paid directly to the tenant.
“At the moment only single claimants are involved, but families will be included next year and by 2020 everyone that has a claim will be on the system.
“Being a big landlord we can absorb the delayed cashflow, but smaller landlords must really be struggling.”
DWP Housing Partnership has around 3,000 tenants in total, 40 of whom are on Universal Credit – and that number is rising every month.
Universal Credit was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith at the Conservative Party annual conference in 2010 where it was stated the reform was designed to bring “fairness and simplicity” to the British social security system.
Pic caption: Dave Phillips
Notes for Editors:
DWP Housing Partnership was established as Dave Wells Properties in 1985. The company, which has its headquarters in St Clement’s Road, Boscombe, owns properties across Dorset and Hampshire and houses over 3,000 tenants.
The business currently has other new developments under construction in the Bournemouth and Poole area and plans for several more in the future.
Steve Wells sits on a number of national panels, advising on the best ways to regenerate run-down areas and working to make sure Bournemouth remains a great place to live and work. He’s also a member of the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the British property Federation (BPF).
For more information contact Ed Baker, account director at Deep South Media, on 01202 534487 or 07788392965.