Universal Credit can include within it a payment specifically designated for certain housing costs. This separate payment can help with rent payments to a private landlord, housing association or interest payments on a mortgage.
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In some instances, struggling Universal Credit claimants will be able to agree to have their housing costs elements paid directly to their landlords instead of to them personally.
This is done under the “alternative payment arrangement” system.
However, if this is system is utilised the housing payments are paid on a four-weekly basis, while the remaining Universal Credit payments come through monthly.
Some people in the social housing field have detailed that this difference can lead to difficulties for both parties involved.
To rectify this, Neil Couling, the Universal Credit Director General recently confirmed that payment changes would be coming next month.
On July 9, he wrote to colleagues to provide an update on Universal Credit housing costs and confirmed the following: “When I last wrote to you in late December, I set out our plans to start a small scale test with a group of Social Landlords to align the way that we pay Managed Payments to Landlords (MPtL) with a claimant’s Assessment Period.
“Despite the unprecedented volume of claims that we have received and the substantial changes that the Department has introduced at pace during this period, I am pleased to confirm that we have now successfully completed testing of the payment alignment feature.
“We will begin rolling this feature out to all Portal landlords, commencing next month.
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“This means that going forwards you will receive the housing cost element at the same time as your tenant receives their UC payment, as well as allowing you to access payment information via the Landlord Portal, where a managed payment is in place.
“This should greatly improve your ability to manage payments and reconcile UC housing costs, helping you to support your tenants during this period
“We are currently finalising our roll-out approach, and the team will contact you two weeks before your go-live date, when you will also be issued with detailed guidance to help you use the new feature and obtain support if needed.”
To apply for housing payments, a person can make a claim through their online Universal Credit account.
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This housing support can even be received if the claimant does not have a permanent address.
If need be, the claimant can use the address of:
- A hostel where they are staying
- A family member or friend
If the claimant has no other option, they can even use their local Jobcentre Plus address.
Once a claimant has applied, they will usually need to attend an interview at their local Jobcentre which will take place around seven days after applying.
The claimant will be told if they’ll need to make an appointment and what documents to bring with them.
The following pieces of information may be needed for evidence:
- a current tenancy agreement, rent statement or rent book
- a signed letter from a landlord (saying that the claimants lives there, pays rent and is living there legally)
- details of service charges they’re responsible for
- a current mortgage agreement, mortgage statement or bank statement showing mortgage payments
- details of any loan agreements secured on a property
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