URGENT – Tenants beware landlord dirty tricks with Benefit Cap!

A tweet today reveals dirty tricks by East Durham Homes with regard to the Benefit Cap that social tenants need to be aware of and it not immediately apparent.  The tweet:

landlorddirtytricks benefit cap

Follow the link and you find the social (?) landlord is requesting the tenant calls them and give the landlord precise details of (a) your household composition, and (b) precise details of what welfare benefits you receive.

So what is the problem in that you ask?

Firstly, social landlords do NOT know either of these issues as they have never needed to know and a tenant does not have to inform the landlord of these issues.

Secondly, when you do inform your landlord, your landlord will then know if you are likely to be hit by the reducing Benefit Cap and by how much per week your Housing Benefit will be cut.

In short, the tenant will be telling their landlord that they are too great a financial risk given that the reducing Benefit Cap will cut the average social tenant households Housing Benefit by around £76 per week.

The landlord in the apparent guise of helping the tenant over the Benefit Cap reductions is actually helping itself and not the tenant.

If tenants need to know whether they will be affected then they should be contacting an independent advice agency such as the CAB but NOT by asking their landlord who has a very clear conflict of interest here.

In short all tenants can start by looking at this table below which gives the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you will receive broken down by your household composition.

obcmaxhblandlordtype

The above uses very precise figures despite being rounded to the nearest £1 and is accurate as the amounts of JSA /ESA /IS and Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit are the same right across the country.

The table shows that the 2 parent 3 Child household will be affected in theory right across the country as you can’t find in this case a 3 bedroom rented property that a maximum HB of £50 per week in the regions or £108 in London will cover

The second and final step if the above figures could affect you in practice and if you receive ANY of the following then you are exempt from the Benefit Cap.

The CAB website here discusses and list benefits that make you exempt such as DLA, PIP, etc yet has not been updated to include that you are exempt if you receive Carer’s Allowance or Guardian’s Allowance.

The DWP’s own page here does list the exempt benefits and I have reproduced below and remember you only have to receive ANY ONE of these benefits to be exempt:

obc non exempt

And those that are included here:

obcexempt

Note well that if you receive ESA you need to be in the support group to be exempt and if you are in the work related activity group or WRAG then you are not exempt and the reducing Benefit Cap will apply.

If you still haven’t heard about the reducing Benefit Cap policy which begins at start of November then you need to find out quickly.  It applies to social and private tenants and the average amounts of Housing Benefit it cuts is alarming as these actual averages from actual DWP figures for Leeds reveals with further details here that applies to all other towns and cities with only the amount of cuts varying:

obcleeds2 Council housing = Avg £73.14 per week HB cut

obcleeds3 ha Housing Association = £70.13 per week HB cut

obcleeds4 prs Private tenants = £126.81 per week HB cut

All of these actual average cuts means that council, HA and private tenants will be evicted as no households reliant on subsistence levels benefits can afford to find £70 – £126 PER WEEK to make up the rent and especially as we know bedroom tax households are struggling to pay the average £15.29 per week HB cut and rent shortfall.

So if the social tenant falls for this landlord dirty trick and gives them precise details of their household composition and the precise welfare benefits they receive then all the tenant will be doing is ensuring the red-inked pay up or else letters will be coming through their letterboxes sooner rather than later.

This is also a critical issue if landlords believe the risible DWP estimates and scan figures as to the number of households affected.  The latest DWP figures saying this will be 88,000 households affected yet it can and I strongly maintain it will be at least 100,000 more than that and as a minimum.

Finally on this point, there is no point in informing your landlord as there is absolutely bugger all your landlord can support you with regarding the Benefit Cap.  You will be hit with it or not and even the most supportive landlord welfare teams do not have the time, the resources or even the knowledge to help you move from ESA wrag to ESA support or to claim any other of the welfare benefits which would exempt you.

The only logical way to escape the Benefit Cap is to take up a minimum wage job that would qualify you for working tax credit that exempts you from it.

That is what the Benefit cap is all about – ensuring that employers have an ever larger cohort of desperate people who have no choice but to take a low paying job in order to keep the roof over their children’s heads.   Note well that you have no choice even if you are unable to work or not expected to work, such as the parent with a day old baby and others who I discuss here.

As someone said today about this on Twitter – “I never believed this would happen in my wildest nightmares” yet that wildest nightmare begins from 7 November 2016 less than 10 weeks away so it is time tenants found out but not by contacting your landlord!!!

Finally, I mentioned this issue well over a year ago(**) when I said tenants should beware of their landlords coming up with ploys such as tell us what benefits you are on and be entered into a prize draw for an iPad or something similar.  This particular attempt by East Durham Homes will not be the first such ploy or the last as landlords are desperate to know what benefits their tenants are receiving in order to consider their financial risks of arrears.

That same issue also applies to the Pay MORE to Stay policy which starts in April 2017 as council an HA landlords are also desperate to discover how much non HB tenants get in income so as to charge them more in rent.

Both policies, and regardless of how good a landlord you have or think you have, mean that all social landlords become the enemy of the social tenant.  That wedge between landlord and tenant has been driven there (and knocked in repeatedly with a sledgehammer) with government policy.

Tenant be wary, be very very very wary!

___________________________________

(**) 15 July 2015 in my “Ain’t nothing going up but the rent” blog when I said:

Interestingly and I doubt in this case connected to this I have just seen on Facebook a tenant letter from a new housing officer saying it is our policy to visit every property every two years and photograph rooms (eh?) and we need to verify that the tenant on the tenancy is actually living there for which we need to see a ….WAGE SLIP!
All tenants need to be aware of such potential devices being used and earnings data boxes can seem not to be out of place in a  tenant satisfaction survey with the chance to win an iPad or £200 in Marks & Spencer vouchers and the like!!  can’t they?

PS – A few responses on Twitter and Facebook from tenants within an hour of this blog published saying their landlords have already asked for this information too!

UPDATE – 20:15 pm

Here’s the case of Mr S, a social tenant and single parent to two young children.

  • He has been told by his council he will not be affected by the reduced Benefit Cap.
  • His landlord also saying that he will not be affected by the reduced Benefit Cap
  • He has been told by the local welfare rights advice that he will not be affected
  • He has received no notification from the DWP that he will be affected either …

Yet he will as the figures prove.

Income (Yearly)

  • Job Seekers Allowance … 3,811.64
  • Child Benefit ……………. 1,793.72
  • Child Tax Credit ……….. 5,560.00
  • Family Premium ………..    545.00
  • Yearly Total ……………. £11,710.36 (= £224.58 per week)

He lives in a 2 bed affordable (sic) rent property in the South East not in London and so he maximum amount of overall ‘benefit’ he is allowed is £20,000 per year.

This means the maximum he is allowed to get in Housing Benefit is £8,289.64 per year which works out at £159 per week.

His so-called ‘affordable’ rent from his so-called ‘social’ landlord is £198 per week.

He will therefore have to find almost £40 per week from his £224.58 other income to pay his rent on his cramped 2 bed accommodation.

Currently his Housing Benefit pays all his rent bar £5 or so per week which is ineligible and this form of alleged ‘social’ housing, the misnamed affordable rent is more than he would receive in LHA if he lived in a 2 bed private property in the same area.  In many areas I have found AR HB levels to be more than the maximum a private tenant can receive in LHA.

What can we deduce from this?

  • A) Affordable (sic) rent is a joke and misnomer
  • B) HA’s who have AR properties across the South East will find they are unaffordable to the benefit tenant and even the 2 bed AR property is financially toxic to the benefit tenant.
  • C) The DWP scan that so many buffoons say must be accurate is clearly not accurate.
  • D) The landlord, council and local CAB clearly do not know what they are talking about when it comes to the reduced Benefit Cap.
  • E) Run these figures through the DWP’s own benefit cap calculator and it also says Mr S has a maximum HB entitlement to £159 per week!!

Note, the list above is the full income details for Mr S and his children so there is no question of a mistake in the figures.

In light of the comments from many below this piece today I just thought the above actual example which highlights all the points of A) through E) above can be borne in mind by those who argue against my original point and due to their assertions and statements as to their expertise in this area.

Yes, the DWP got it wrong. The council got it wrong. Welfare Rights got is wrong. The landlord got it wrong – – Even though all of them could have used the DWP’s own benefit cap calculator and got it right.

The much bigger point of course is that the DWP scan and their estimates are the biggest work of dangerous fiction yet from a government department with a history of cock ups such as (i) 670k hit by bedroom tax was 524k and good for DWP as only 22% out; then (ii) 56,000 to be hit by benefit cap which has seen an average of 23,000 since October 2013 or 59% out; then (iii) the infamous pre 1996 cock up that DWP including IDS and Freud said would only affect 3-5,000 households yet actually affected over 40,000 – or ten times their mid point figure.

Now I wonder which outright despicable scare monger predicted all of the above and said the DWP was talking out of its arse and was ridiculed for it and was proved correct?  Still that is the usual pathetic tactic that DWP, government and all other actors hope you have forgotten about when the actual figures and impacts manifest which of course by that time is far too late to do anything about!

Sincerely

Attention-seeking opinionated smart arse and ScareMonger #1

_______________________________________________

Apologies … just a quick chart to show that those who assert that the Benefit Cap has worked as it has created more employment and (as some idiots believe) this is demonstrated by the HB in-work claimant count.

Here is the HB in-work claimant count in a simple BEFORE and AFTER chart …

OBC AND IN WORK BOLLOX

Notice anything? Damn those facts are pesky aren’t they!

 

 

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “URGENT – Tenants beware landlord dirty tricks with Benefit Cap!

  1. Sorry Joe but you are now giving dangerous advice. Telling people not to cooperate with their landlord to combat the benefit cap is frankly shocking! Landlords aren’t doing this in order to identify who to evict….landlords don’t want to evict because they know that they wouldn’t be able to let the 2-3 bed properties that are vacated…..due to combination of bedroom tax, benefit cap and pay more to stay, neither unemployed nor working familues will be able to afford to occupy the vacated properties. Landlords have no need to send the red-ink letter until someone is in arrears but they can send a black-ink letter asking for info so that the tenant is aware of what lies ahead……because most don’t and telling them to ignore their landlord and any offers of help is downright stupid!Getting people exempt from this awful policy needs the COMBINED effort of cab, welfare rights services, tenancy support officers, voluntary groups etc. You are advocating reducing the sources of help. At least your table is correct this time but you didn’t give the right advice about workers. They don’t have to be in receipt of wtc – they have to be eligible to claim it, even if income is too high to be in receipt. Working is certainly NOT the ONLY logical way to escape the Cap. That is simply incorrect. And it would help if you stopped referring to the DWP figure as an estimate….it isn’t, it’s a 100%scan. 

    Sent from my Samsung device

    1. I don’t sees how they can know how many will be affected since those of us already affected, and, in my opinion, many of those who are going to be affected, will be on the cap one minute off it the next with their zero hours contracts.

      1. That is just one part of it but a legitimate part of this mess

        When benefit is suspended or tenant sanctioned or tenant loses ESA support or PIP or DLA and it takes months and months to appeal this (and noting 60% of appeals are successful too) or Universal Credit buggering it up as it does frequently already and despite only dealing with less than 2% of all cases it was intended for …. and so many other issues similar to the above mean this is going to be horrific.

    2. “Sorry Joe but you are now giving dangerous advice. Telling people not to cooperate with their landlord to combat the benefit cap is frankly shocking! ”

      WHY IS IT SHOCKING? NO REASON GIVEN FOR YOUR CLAIM (PLUS CA CHANGE!)

      Landlords aren’t doing this in order to identify who to evict….landlords don’t want to evict because they know that they wouldn’t be able to let the 2-3 bed properties that are vacated…..due to combination of bedroom tax, benefit cap and pay more to stay, neither unemployed nor working familues will be able to afford to occupy the vacated properties.

      WORKING FAMILIES WONT BE ABLE TO AFFORD!!! DO PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS NONSENSICAL VIEW AS IT MUST MEAN THEY CANNOT HAVE A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS NOW AND BE ROUGH SLEEPERS !

      Landlords have no need to send the red-ink letter until someone is in arrears but they can send a black-ink letter asking for info so that the tenant is aware of what lies ahead……because most don’t and telling them to ignore their landlord and any offers of help is downright stupid!

      BUT LANDLORDS WONT NEED TO SEND SUCH LETTERS ACCORDING TO YOUR VIEW AS THE DWP WILL HAVE ALREADY SENT THEM AS PART OF THE SCAN YOU HOLD SUCH STORE BY SO YOU ARE FLATLY CONTRADICTING YOURSELF!

      Getting people exempt from this awful policy needs the COMBINED effort of cab, welfare rights services, tenancy support officers, voluntary groups etc. You are advocating reducing the sources of help.

      NO I MERELY SAY LANDLORDS DON’T HAVE THE RESOURCES OR EXPERTISE WHICH THEY DO NOT … AS WELL AS HAVING A CONFLICT OF INTEREST … WHICH ONLY COMES INTO PLAY IF THE DWP FIGURES YOU HOLD SUCH STORE BY ARE WRONG!!

      Gary, I am being mild above in refuting your sniping in the unsubstantiated opinions you give. When you have tried to substantiate and claimed the Benefit Cap works as the increase of in-work HB recipients show, I answered that by stating that the 58% increase of in-work HB claimants occurred from May 2010 to September 2013 and BEFORE the Benefit Cap began in October 2013!

      The in-work HB cohort that has increased by just 4% from October 2013 to May 2016 further confirms that view which has a factual underpinning unlike your assertions.

      Finally, you constantly repeat that I call the DWP scan an estimate. I do not and I make clear differentiation between the estimates and the scan.

      The DWP (Feb 16) est was based on Nov 15 HB data and said 94k to 177k affected. Then in late July 16 the scan was given saying 120k affected using May 16 HB data. Then last week we had another DWP estimate saying it would be 88k and 27% lower than the scan … yet used the November 2015 HB data (yes the same data that gave the 94k to 177k estimate back in February 2016!)

      So by all means give you opinion but do get your facts right and do have some facts to substantiate your errant snipes

  2. Sorry Joe. Your information is misleading.
    Firstly;
    1. The local authority tell the HA how much the cap is.
    2. My advisors are far more qualified than my local advice agency. Please do not place all advisors in the “awful advice” category.
    3. I agree with Gary, it is easier to allocate resource and assist those who are affected to sustain their tenancy if they engage.
    4. The protocol does not allow HAs to “just give notice” on a belief it’s an unaffordable tenancy.

    These people are in a bad enough situation as it is, if there is expert help ( yes my guys are experts), leg them access it!

    1. 1. The LA are told the reduction by DWP and then the LA tell the social (but not private) landlord

      2. I stated tenants should seek independent advice and NOT ask their landlord and I fully stand by that. If local agencies are poor (or even exist!) then online information is better for tenants than going to landlords who do have a conflict of interest.

      3. Surely you are not saying landlord will only help to sustain if they engage? I presume not but more importantly what support CAN the landlord give? DHP will rapidly be exhausted and see my discussion on that here (https://handsoffourhomes.org.uk/2016/08/24/the-benefit-cap-in-leeds-a-93k-per-day-added-cost-to-the-council-speye-joe-welfarewrites/) regarding Leeds that will apply right across the UK.

      4. You misread as I agree fully – Given the average £70+ per week cut in housing benefit which cannot be escaped except by working, evictions are inevitable and also due to that level of arrears HA’s will be using Ground 8 evictions as the norm and because they will have no choice given level of arrears.

      If ANY social landlord can give details of what expert advice there is other than get a job to avoid the Benefit Cap then I’m all ears, yet there is not. And when a large % of social tenants have children under school age and not expected to work and/or will have great difficulty in finding and securing employment (59% of current capped tenant have children 3 and under) or when they are in the ESA wrag (of which 15.5% of existing capped households are) and have even greater difficulty accessing and sustaining employment …

      Just some of the problems that even the most expert and most socially minded landlord welfare team would struggle to offer any real support to

  3. This is why your dislike of housing associations is leading you to give dangerous and self-defeating advice….this is what a local welfare rights adviser has to say about East Durham “I wouldn’t mind but they work with the Council to identify missing benefits. I gave a talk to them last month and we agreed  a course of action, which would be to deliver benefit checks. They refer cases to us for appeals” Great advice from you Joe, telling people not to co-operate. 

    Sent from my Samsung device

    1. I fail to see why advice is either dangerous or misleading and your errant view that I dislike HAs is yet another simplification.

      Tenants can go direct to welfare benefit agencies and get INDEPENDENT advice and should as HA welfare teams DO have a conflict of interest when it comes to overall benefit cap and pay MORE to stay.

      Your view appears to be any form of ‘advice’ even if that advice sees a pejorative conflict of interest position.

      In your errant view ‘co-operation’ is akin to dancing with the devil whereas mine is it is NOT in the tenants best interest for reasons I have stated that relate to the self-evident conflict of interest.

  4. Hi Joe, I think your comment, “there is no point in informing your landlord as there is absolutely bugger all your landlord can support you with regarding the Benefit Cap” is a bit strong. Many HA’s have welfare rights teams who can assist tenants to gain exemption from the cap by assisting them with benefit claims and appeals. Sure, everyone can find the list of exempt benefits online, but not everyone has the know-how to challenge a decision that they are not entitled to ESA support group, or PIP or DLA for example. I agree that the main route to exemption is through working and claiming working tax credits, but it is certainly not the only one, and tenants shouldn’t be discouraged from getting advice from their HA if this could lead to an increased income and exemption from the cap via decent advice. In addition, you have reproduced the DWP list of benefits that count to towards the cap limit not the exempt ones!

    1. Matt

      Thanks for pointing that out and now corrected.

      I saw your comment just after I posted an update in the blog which was not aimed at you but at others who claim they are right and I am wrong on this.

      There are some good welfare teams in social housing and have et and worked with some of them yet the majority if not all simply do NOT have the time and other resources to deal with DLA, PIP, ESA and other complex cases that often include appeals too and appeals have a 60% success rate which shows just how bad original decisions are!

      Social landlord also do have a conflict of interest or at least a large potential for in both Pay MORE to Stay and with the Benefit Cap.

      I have given presentations to housing conferences for last 4 years which included illustrations of impacts when (not if) the cap was reduced. To be met with it will never happen / its a London only PRS rent issue.

      Now those same housing personnel are saying the DWP figures are correct and must be as they were an actual scan. Yet DWP never been right before and they won’t be this time as the number of households affected will be way in excess and could be more than double the latest 88,000 figure. Landlords are in for a huge surprise.

      Not the ONLY route? In all practical terms work is unless landlords and/or welfare teams are magicians who can first find tenants on ESA (wrag) and then get them onto ESA support before the benefit cap hits in less than 10 weeks time.

      A small number will be found (in the above time) that will be entitled to more in benefits and perhaps some exempt ones, but in tiny numbers … and being cynical but valid haven’t landlords been doing welfare benefit maximisation for years now yet still we see over £20 billion per year entitled to yet unclaimed according to DWP’s own figures!

      The HB reforms as correctly termed (they are not welfare reforms and all target HB) such as Benefit Cap are radical in consequence and demanded radical support and radical operational change from social landlords … that never materialised as housing focused on UC and direct payments then RTBe than 1% – and have totally taken their eyes off the worst HB reform of the lot in the Benefit Cap that makes all 3 beds and larger (36% of all SRS stock) financially toxic and a benefit tenant free zone.

      So yes there are some good and some damn good welfare teams in social housing BUT …

  5. Hi Joe, I agree and suspect that many social landlords have been too focused on UC and the other reforms and still haven’t grasped the seriousness of the reduced benefit cap. As you’ve said in previous blogs, DHP’s will not be sufficient and rent arrears will undoubtedly increase. Do you think this (along with the other reforms) will see more HA’s having to merge or worse still going out of business?

    1. Hi Matt, and thanks for civil response which is much appreciated. I know of HA’s who have abandoned mergers some reported and some that were not at a ‘formal’ stage; and some HA group structures that are going through what they call ‘de-mergers’ at present too.

      There is no one size fits all solution to merger / demerge / stock swaps / buy ins and buy outs and each will depend on stock and location and all other matters that due diligence should cover yet let’s just say the past has not been successful at.

      The DHP issue is a huge one as the Leeds blog last week showed when even using the risible DWP scan the HB cut in Benefit Cap will go from £0.7m per year to £7.4m per year and all from same DHP budgets!! Same scan when extrapolated had £70+ per week HB cuts on average across social housing which makes SRS eviction (and of children!) inevitable and makes Ground 8 become the vehicle to do that and also become the norm.

      I doubt the ‘sector’ will let HA’s go out of business (no Cosmopolitan revisted) and many mergers now are in reality takeovers in any case which is same thing but simply labelled as merger.

      Very worrying times for the alleged ‘social purpose / ethos’ which in part policies mean can no longer exist and I simply can’t believe that HA’s in particular do not see the reputational issues in having to evict children and I can easily sees 200,000 children alone evicted due to Benefit Cap by so-called social landlords (HA and council).

  6. Incidentally Gary … I was blogging and presenting about what you call Benefit Cap Plus in 2013 … just as I was that landlords were doing a woeful job of ‘benefit maximisation’ as there was over £20 billion per year entitled that went unclaimed. There still is which shows just how poor a job they have done about it

  7. Maybe a few tenants who have tried to ‘engage’ should come forward. My HA policy is pay up or leave. They didn’t understand bedroom tax and said appeals are useless so how can they be trusted to understand the benefit cap? If you don’t pay you are not engaging. They can’t magic up extra money as Joe says. My HA are evicting as quickly as they can. What did their advisor recommend for me? An IVA! I don’t have that many debts but an IVA as opposed to a DRO? I did not need either and it was bad advice.

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