Highland Council Universal Credit claimants urged to act ahead of annual rent increase

Highland Council tenants claiming Universal Credit are being urged to look out for messages from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The messages, due to start being sent to claimants from the 6th April 2020, will remind people to log on to their online journal and complete the 'To-do' section and 'Report any changes to your housing costs’ to ensure their entitlement covers their annual rent increase for the year ahead.

Those tenants who do not notify the DWP of their rent increase will face a shortfall in their housing entitlement, which will put them at risk of rent arrears. 

This year Highland Council tenants will see their rent rise by 3% from the 30th March 2020. Tenants claiming UC are being encouraged by the Council to wait for the prompt from the DWP rather than notifying the DWP prior to April. This will help prevent any confusion for our tenants, who could be prompted to report the change in rent again, even though they have already notified DWP of the change.

Not all tenants will receive their message on the same day, the date of the message will be determined by the UC Assessment Period. We would advise all our tenants to keep checking for the message to ensure they act quickly when it arrives.

If a tenant does not receive a message during the first couple of weeks of April 2020, we would advise them to report a housing change in circumstances in their UC journal or contact the UC Service Centre direct on 0800 328 5644. Alternatively, they can speak to their Housing Officer by calling 01349 886602

Cllr Ben Thompson, Chair of the Housing & Property Committee said:

“We understand that the UC system can be complex, particularly this year with our rents increasing in March. We also appreciate that our tenants will be extremely worried about the impact that Coronavirus may have on their ability to pay their rent.  We have trained our staff to support tenants with any questions or concerns they may have in relation to their rent. They can also assist those tenants with managing their online journals.

“If any tenant is worried about their rent, we would urge them to contact their Housing Officer as soon as possible. We will shortly be issuing more detailed information in relation to the impacts of Coronavirus and how we will minimise service disruption and support our tenants.”

When logging in to their UC journal to complete the ‘To-do’ all Universal Credit claimants will be asked the following;

•             Has your rent changed?

•             Have your service charges changed?

•             When did your housing costs change?

•             How much will you be charged for your new rent?

•             How frequent is your new rent?

•             How much will you be charged for your new service charges?

•             How frequent is your new service charge?

We would urge all our tenants to have their annual rent increase letter to hand when they log into their UC journal.

Anyone unsure of any of these details or have service charges included in their rent should contact their Housing Officer to find out the correct information before they update their on-line Universal Credit journal.

If any tenants are worried about their rent arrears, or the impact that COVID19 may have on your ability to pay your rent they can seek advice and help from their Housing Officer on 01349 886602.

Our Housing Officers will be able to discuss a wide range of options for payment and signpost tenants to a wide range of specialist support including welfare benefits, money and debt advice, or short-term housing support.

For more information about Universal Credit and COVID19 visit:

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

 

 

20 Mar 2020
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