Four steps to take if you’re behind on rent as number of Universal Credit claimants in arrears soars 70%
OVER 190,000 Universal Credit claimants are behind on paying their rent, causing charities to call for the £20 uplift to return.
Latest government figures show that hundreds of thousands of claimants are at least two months or more in arrears.
This marks a jump of 70% in just six months, according to charity Crisis, adding that it was unlikely families have cleared their debts due to a lack of savings to draw upon.
It comes as claimants saw their weekly payments docked by £20 after the government axed the Universal Credit uplift.
Universal Credit was boosted by an extra £20 a week during the pandemic, amounting to £1,040 a year.
It provided a lifeline for many struggling Brits who had their incomes ravaged by the Covid crisis – but it ended on October 6 after the government axed the boost.
Many claimants have since been left struggling to get by – and pay their bills.
The cut was predicted to push 2.3million people into debt after paying their bills, according to research from Citizens Advice.
Other government help schemes have also been axed too – leaving Brits concerned about their finances.
The flagship furlough scheme ended on September 30 – leaving 1.6million workers at risk of redundancy.
Renters have also lost the eviction protection put in place during the pandemic.
Landlords now have to give two months' notice before evicting a tenant, or just four weeks for those with four or more months of arrears.
It's meant charities including Crisis have called for the return of the £20 a week boost.
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said failing to reinstate the help could be "catastrophic" for hard-up families.
"These figures are far worse than we feared and must act as a wake-up call to government to act now if we are to pull hundreds of thousands of renters back from the brink of homelessness," he said.
"It’s vital that the Government use the upcoming Spending Review to reverse this decision and reinstate the £20 lifeline so we can prevent struggling families from losing their homes this winter."
While StepChange director of external affairs Richard Lane said a "perfect storm" has been created after the government has axed Covid help schemes.
"By establishing a dedicated rent debt fund, and by reversing the £20 a week Universal Credit cut, the government can avert the threat of rising housing insecurity and problem debt that will compound financial and social problems and hamper economic recovery,” he said.
Turn2us head of external affairs Sara Willcocks said: "The government urgently needs to look again at its decision to cut the £20 uplift, as well as review Local Housing Allowance rates to ensure that renters don’t end up with a shortfall."
A government spokesperson said: "We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary and designed to help people through the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
"Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and we will deliver a fairer and more effective rental market that works for both tenants and landlords."
What to do if you're behind on rent
If you can't pay your rent and you're struggling to make ends meet, it can be a worrying time.
Here's four steps to take in order to get the help you need.
Speak to your landlord
Talk to your landlord as soon as possible about the issues you're having meeting your payments.
It could be that they agree to lower your rent, set up an affordable repayment plan or give you more time to pay up.
But they don't have to do this – there's no rules that can make your landlord reduce your rent, unfortunately.
If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it's a good idea to pay as much as you can afford – and keep a record of discussions and payments.
Reduce your council tax bill
You can apply for a discount to lower your council tax bill, which could help free up money to pay off your rent arrears.
You can get 25% off if you live on your own, or if there is one adult and one student living in your home, or one adult and one person who is classed as severely mentally impaired.
You can get 50% off if you live with “disregarded people” – which means someone who does not have to pay council tax.
A live-in carer and someone who is severely mentally impaired fall under this category.
You can check out Citizens Advice for a full list on who qualifies.
Apply for benefits
You might be able to get more help from the government to help pay your rent if you're struggling.
Universal Credit claimants could also get Housing Benefit if they are on a low income with savings below £16,000, are unemployed, or are on benefits.
If you're still finding paying your way difficult, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
This is a pot of money your local council will have to help renters already on benefits who are in trouble with housing costs.
You’ll have to apply for this through your local council, which you can find here.
The council will asses your circumstances before deciding if you're entitled to the cash, how much you're able to get and for how long you'll receive the payment.
Get a grant
Some charities may give grants to help with covering housing costs.
Most grants do not have to be paid back.
Charity turn2us has a tool that can help you check out grants available near you on its website.
You’ll need to enter your postcode, your gender, and your age.
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