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Rent Arrears – help is available

The eviction ban 

A lot of people have lost money because of Covid-19, due to job losses, sickness, reduced hours and pay, and reduced income for small business owners. This means that a lot of people have not been able to pay their full rent, and now owe money to their landlords.  

However for the last few months landlords have not been able to make tenants move out, even if they haven’t been able to pay rent and owe money. The government stopped landlords applying to the courts to get the legal paperwork needed for eviction (a court order saying that someone has to leave), and they stopped the courts making any decisions about eviction.  

That’s now changing. From today (Monday 21st September) landlords will be able to take legal action again, and people may start being evicted. People could lose their homes because of rent arrears – particularly as many people are still out of work or otherwise on a reduced income.  

Help with rent 

If you have rent arrears or aren’t able to pay your rent in full then it’s important to see if there is any benefit, or other assistance, you could claim.  

For most people that will mean claiming Universal Credit – a benefit that can help people who are out of work or on a low income and which can include money towards housing costs. People can claim whether or not they are working, and the help available will depend on any income being received. Couples should claim together, and claims take into account any children in the household.  

How we can help  

Our Universal Credit Advice Service can help. We give advice, help people to claim, and help when anything goes wrong with a claim. We can check that people are getting the right amount of money, and whether decisions made about a claim are right. We can help challenge incorrect decisions.  

We can also check whether people are entitled to extra money if they are sick or disabled.  

If you have any questions please contact us by calling us at 07880 034 197, by emailing ucadvice@mindchwf.org.uk or make a referral for support from our Welfare Rights team.

Before you claim

Do not make a claim without getting further advice if you already receive Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits.  

Claiming Universal Credit can affect these benefits. Talk to us and we can tell you whether you will be better off claiming Universal Credit.  

When to claim 

If you aren’t receiving any of the benefits listed above and your income hasn’t changed significantly in the last month – claim as soon as possible.  

Universal Credit is normally only paid from the date you make the claim – even if you would have qualified for help sooner. It also takes 5 weeks for the first payment to be made. (You may be able to get an “advance payment” sooner but this will be a loan you will need to pay back from your ongoing benefit).  

If your income has just reduced, or you are about to receive a final payment from work, talk to us about when you should claim.  

How to claim 

Claims can be made online

You will be asked to verify your identity. Don’t worry if you can’t do that online – if that’s not possible they will call you back and get the information they need.  

Will Universal Credit pay the full rent 

Universal Credit can help with rent, but it often doesn’t cover the full rent. That can be because: 

  • You may get less money if they believe your home has more rooms than you need 
  • They compare actual rents to what they believe is a reasonable rent for the area (set at a level which means that 7 out of 10 local rents would not be covered) 
  • When the full rent is considered there are still limits on the total amount people can receive 
  • Any other income (and sometimes savings) will be taken into account 

We can check whether Universal Credit has been worked out correctly. We can also check whether there is any other help you could get.  

Payments direct to the landlord 

Universal Credit will sometimes make payments direct to the landlord. This can be because you asked them to, or because you have rent arrears and your landlord asked to be paid directly.  

Sometimes this can be helpful – your landlord might feel more confident getting payments this way, or you might find it easier than arranging to make payments yourself. But sometimes they may pay your landlord more than you can afford.  

If you want help arranging payments to your landlord, or asking them to pay less money to your landlord we may be able to help.  

Help with evictions 

We can help you make sure you’re receiving all the financial help you’re entitled to, which may help with rent arrears. We can also arrange appointments for debt advice – it might be possible to reduce other payments you are making, or negotiate with your landlord about how rent arrears will be repaid.  

If your landlord has already asked a court to consider evicting you (and not just told you they plan to do this), or has said they want to evict you for any reason other than rent arrears you should get specialist housing advice. In Hackney you can contact Shelter on 0344 515 1540.