Leading poverty charity Turn2us has said that many private renters who are struggling to pay their rent are unaware of the help that they are eligible for. The charity says that some private renters who are seeking help, who are told that they don’t qualify for Housing Benefit, are not aware that they could be eligible for Universal Credit. The charity says that the problem is with private renters who aren’t receiving means-tested benefits not being signposted clearly to the fact that they could receive support via Universal Credit.
It is feared that, when eligible people do eventually become aware that they can apply, the six week wait for Universal Credit will mean that many will be vulnerable to falling in to arrears or further arrears and may lose their home. The charity says that the delay in claiming can be compounded by the payment of the housing costs element of Universal Credit being held up.
Turn2us says that a key issue is that many people who are eligible for Universal Credit are not aware that they are eligible for it at all and miss out on the support that could help them with housing costs. Another barrier to people claiming Universal Credit to help with housing costs is that the claim often requires a confirmation from a landlord to the amount of rent.
The charity says that the extent to which people’s incomes are being absorbed by rent highlights the need for people to receive all of the housing support that they are eligible for. It points to the latest rent to income ratio published in the HomeLet Rental Index which is now 29%.
Jeinsen Lam, a housing solicitor, who works at South West London Law Centres, is concerned about the lack of awareness of the eligibility for Universal Credit among private renters. He said: “Our experience on the court duty scheme is that lack of knowledge of when to claim Universal Credit and the six week wait for Universal Credit payments all significantly increase the risk of private sector tenants being evicted from their properties. Many people wrongly believe that you need to be on a qualifying benefit, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, in order to get help with your housing costs and therefore do not claim. In our opinion, greater awareness of entitlement would certainly save more homes and prevent more people becoming homeless.”
Encouraging struggling renters to seek help, Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “It is crucial to seek help if you are struggling to pay your rent. Support is available and while you might not always be eligible, it is important to check what you are entitled to so that you do not miss out on help that you could be receiving. This is particularly the case if that help could mean the difference between going into arrears or not.”