The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed earlier this month that all 2022 annual rent changes would be subject to verification by landlords on the Universal Credit (UC) portal this year. The department has stated that this is to reduce the risk of fraud and error in the system.
This decision differs significantly from usual practice, in which there is a margin of a few percent (usually mirroring the rent increase) in which changes would not trigger a landlord verification. Instead following this change, housing associations will need to individually approve every rent change via the UC portal, regardless of the size of the change.
We have already heard from many members concerned about the impact this will likely have on staff capacity. We are also concerned about the potential impact this will have on tenants receiving the housing costs element of their claim on time.
We have written to Neil Couling, Change Director General and Senior Responsible Owner for Universal Credit at the DWP, outlining our concerns and asking for an urgent conversation. The DWP have acknowledged that this change will take more time for landlords, but confirmed that tenants will continue to receive their previous housing costs whilst awaiting verification on the 2022 data.
We are currently seeking further clarification on this year’s process and will update members as and when we receive more information from the DWP. The NHF will continue to make the case for a long term, practical and sustainable solution to annual rent changes within the UC system and the DWP have committed to addressing this through their current sector engagement channels.
If you would like to discuss this announcement further or have any questions or concerns, please contact our team.