Most landlords are going to have around a 50% increase on rent they need to collect in the way of direct payments, and managing these cases will be cost 500%* more than Housing Benefit cases. And 89%** of those tenants on Universal Credit are in arrears. This is the impact that Universal Credit is having on the sector now. Add into the mix the Benefit Cap, 1% rent cut and other reform going on it is safe to say that collecting the rent got a whole lot more complex. With this changing environment there is one thing landlords cannot do and that is to do nothing. They have to change what they’re doing if they are going to successfully navigate the maze of rent collection.
Debbie Larner, Head of Practice at Chartered Institute of Housing, highlighted the importance of taking a longer term view of income collection.
“Faced with the forthcoming changes, some organisations might be tempted to cut services like tenancy sustainment, welfare advice and financial inclusion in a bid to cut costs, but you have to look at the long-term benefits. They can play a vital role – it’s not just about getting the rent in, it’s about helping tenants maximise their income,”
Whilst Your Homes Newcastle, an ALMO with 28,500 stock, are a Universal Credit Trusted Partner Pilot and has set up an internal project to address the changes that UC is bringing, as Allison Allison, Head of Income and Tenancy Management at Your Homes Newcastle, explains.
“At Your Homes Newcastle we have set up a project specifically to address Universal Credit. This has followed a review of internal practices and mapped what we needed to offer both staff and residents in helping them make this switch. This has been broad ranging, from strategic partnerships with other agencies, to training and upskilling specialist staff and investing in technology.”
If you are interested in finding out what others are doing to mitigate welfare reform on a practical level and ensure rent collection is not adversely affected join Allison Allison, Debbie Larner and Paul Evans (of Mobysoft) as they are running a seminar at the National Federation of ALMOs Conference on Tuesday 19th April.
* From a study by Bolton at Home
** From National Federation of ALMOs study