Written by Lisa Butler

Universal Credit is a new way of paying benefits. It is being rolled out this year and has already been introduced in The Vale of Glamorgan. It could have an impact on tenants, so here at Knights we have been studying the legislation, and last month we were lucky enough to have Gaynor Williams from the Department of Work and Pensions come to our office to talk to us about the implementation of Universal Credit. 

The government’s current plan is that eventually all existing benefit claimants will be moved over to Universal Credit. Anybody needing to make a new claim to one of the old benefits, JSA/ESA/Income Support/Tax Credits/Housing Benefits will now have to claim Universal Credit instead.

People on benefits who have a change of circumstance are being moved across first, and the process of moving these people is being called ‘natural migration’, but the main ‘managed migration’ as they are calling it is when most people will be moved, and this will take place from 2020 onwards. The plan is for everyone to be on the new system by December 2023. 

Some of the main features of Universal Credit are: 

* Most claims will be made online. 

* Payments will be made directly to the claimant, monthly in arrears via a single monthly payment. 

* For some people described as ‘vulnerable’ it is possible for us to apply for the housing portion of the payment to be paid directly to Knights. 

* Knights will be able to apply for direct payments once the tenant is two calendar months in arrears. 

A new claimant can ask for a new claim advance if they are in financial need and are unable to wait until their first monthly payment of universal credit. The amount you are able to borrow will be the same as your first universal credit monthly payment. This advance will usually be paid back over a period of twelve months and will be deducted from future payments. 

If tenants are having trouble managing their money while claiming universal credit they may be able to use an Alternative Payment Arrangement. These changes can be one or more of the following: 

* Universal costs paid direct to the landlord/ agent. 

* More frequent payments such as twice a month. 

* Payments split and paid into two bank accounts instead of one. 

From April 2019 The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will fund Citizens Advice to deliver a better Universal Support service. It will offer people the comprehensive and practical support they need to get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives. 

Useful Links
Gov.uk release regular Universal Credit newsletters that provide up to date information to landlords.

The Department of Works and Pensions also have an ‘Understanding Universal Credit’ website which provides lots of useful information for both landlords and tenants. 

But if you have any questions about your situation, please give us a call here at Knights Lettings on 01446 701333.

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