DWP change their mind on how to collect debt from struggling renters

Earlier this year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) proposed to ramp up debt collection from struggling renters.

Collecting rent arrears from people on housing benefit has long been a problem, as housing benefit quite rightly only covers the actual rent, not any arrears that have built up. But as people on housing benefit, by definition, have little spare cash, courts have the power to divert a proportion of a renter’s non-housing benefits to the landlord to pay off the arrears over time, sparing the renter from eviction. Of course, these core benefits are not exactly huge either, so the total amount that could be diverted in this way was limited to 5%, to allow renters sufficient income to survive while the arrears are paid off.  

So it was a bit of a shock when DWP proposed raising this figure to 40% of renters’ core benefits – that’s 40% that could be taken from JSA, Income Support or the new Standard Allowance under Universal Credit.

Though Shelter have long argued that adequate protections are needed to prevent rent arrears  leading to eviction, we could not accept the policy DWP put on the table.

There was no justification from DWP for the 40% rate, no explanation why people needed to be left in excruciating hardship. It was a blunt tool, which failed to recognize the different circumstances  households find themselves in.

Helpfully, the government’s Social Security Advisory Committee flagged their concern about the proposal, and triggered a DWP consultation – otherwise this change might have been quietly introduced by the back door.

Shelter responded to the consultation, to tell DWP what the change would mean for struggling renters.  

And, in part, DWP has heard that message: Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, took the decision not to raise deductions to 40%. Instead, new regulations have been laid which state that DWP can deduct between 10 to 20% of core benefits to pay back rent arrears (the exact deduction will depend on whether the renter is repaying other debts through their benefits).

It’s a technical, but significant decision, and one we’re glad Lord Freud has taken. It’s also positive that the Minister himself was involved, because it shows that rent arrears and evictions are climbing up the political agenda.  This issue deserves more attention, as the latest government statistics show that more and more renters are being evicted.

Private renters are particularly at risk of eviction, because private landlords don’t need a reason to evict their tenants.  So, these new DWP regulations may reassure landlords that they will get their rent back quicker, but do nothing to assure private renters that they won’t face eviction once they have repaid their debt.

The conversation about how best to protect struggling renters needs to continue until the right balance between protecting tenants and landlords is struck.   

 

 

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4 Comments
  1. “Private renters are particularly at risk of eviction, because private landlords don’t need a reason to evict their tenants. ”

    That is in insulting comment.

  2. Not so much insulting as ironically amusing.

    Shelter are claiming landlords evict on a whim when clearly there is a damn good reason for it here- not paying the rent.

    Instead of Shelter’s anti-landlord spin on this, they should be promoting it to private landlords as a positive.

    One of the reasons for “NO DSS” is judges awarding arrears to be paid off at £2.50 per month- often beyond the lifespan of landlords and tenants before the debt is repaid. With this increase there is at least a chance of it being paid off before pension age.

  3. If tenants are paying the rent , looking after the property, and not annoying neighbours, then (most) landlords are happy. It is when one or more of these are not done that tenants will be asked to leave the landlord’s property.

  4. I ended up 3 years in arrears, with both rent, as also council-tax, through no fault of my own, when a local disability advisor at the local Benefit Office suddenly decided to stop paying both, backdated for the relevant 3 years. Obviously, it was over 3 months before I was informed of this “Decision”, by this normally namelss,and faceless, “Decision Maker”. Last February the Crown Court Judge demanded the ID of this CPS “witness”, before taking my appeal any further. He has now adjourned 4 times over the past year, still yet waiting for the CPS to bring this witness to court. He is refusing to take the appeal to a Jury until she does appear. Hopefully, this year he will either proceed devoid of this witness, or will issue an arrest warrant for her. He could also grow extremely bored with this CPS playing for time in this fashion, and find the case in my favour, against the Benefit Office/CPS. Meantime, I am repaying the rent debt to my council landlord, at £35/wk., just 35% of my Incapacity Benefit, which is apparently “untouchable”. The council-tax is not currently being repaid, but I am now struggling to pay the £85/wk. rent, from a reduced £70/wk. Incapacity Benefit. I aready have to pay my specs, and all dental, private. What next, please? will they also stop all my medication too, please? I have not been allowed to work, or pay income-tax, for over the past 14 years, but have spent the past 5 years as a f/t Charity Volunteer, lifting, and shifting heavy household furniture, white-goods, etc. I will be 65 this month, but have been notified by the tax-office some time ago, that I will never qualify for a British State Pension, despite being a British National, dating back so many generations, over the past 10,000 years, as also the fact that I “paid in” f/t, for at least 35 years. Obviously, there is no love lost twixt myself, and the extremely arrogant, equally ignorant, civil service. I have long since believed that I am fully fit for f/t, fully paid, employment, and my GP, himself a civil servant, has agreed with me for almost the past 10 years, but the none medical branch of the civil service simply ignore his “opinion”/evidence. Do they really belive that they will simply be able to force me back into f/t paid employment, way past pension age, please? They with their final salary pension, after only 25 years “service”, please?

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