Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Four Long years

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK

Well, the Christmas party is over, the tinsel and the top of tree angel are boxed for another December. time to get out teeth into the next four years of austerity.

For everyone in housing it’s going to be a busy year. Fortunately most have been planning for it over the last 18 months. So what’s coming peeps? Here is a quick crib sheet if you think you may be behind the curve. As ever, my belief is that you IT and system scan be helping you with a lot of this stuff. If its not, ask "Why Not"?

Jan 2013 – If you are with a local authority, you will no-doubt be well ahead with publishing your ‘Tenancy Strategy’. This lays out all the things that social landlords in your area need to ‘have regard to’ (in the terminology) when dealing with fixed term tenancies. The old policy expires at the end of January.

Apr 2013 – The Housing Ombudsman Service takes on responsibility for all social housing complaints in England. Your complainants need to be referred to it by a designated individual (this could be an MP or local councillor) or can contact it after eight weeks after they have exhausted your own internal complaints procedures.

Several areas of the welfare Reform Act start to kick in too. Many landlords I am aware of are already putting substantial resource into informing residents of what is coming down the line. The (total) benefit cap of £350 or £500 per week for couples was planned to come into force. This has been delayed now until the summer. Details are vague, but this will be while four trial programmes in London are trialled. (Thanks Joe Halewood for flagging that one up!). 

Bedroom tax starts. Working age households under-occupying stand to lose 14% for one room and 25% for two+ rooms.

Residents you may have receiving DLA (Disability Living Allowances) will now move over to PIP (personal independence payments). This will affect new claimants first with others migrated over from autumn 2013

May 2012 – The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Bill is expected to be  passed. This attaches maximum penalties of two years in prison and unlimited fines for tenancy fraud. How wel do you vet your tenants on sign up? Do you take a photograph or photo ID, recording that on your systems? Are your residents encouraged to report suspected fraud? Dedicated fraud investigation staff may also be useful.

Oct 2012 – UC (Universal Credit) kicks in for new claimants. It is estimated that existing claimants will be migrated over between then and December 2017.

So, quite a lot of change coming. Information distilled from your data (as there is a substantial difference!) should be assisting with identifying and informing your under-occupiers and others likely to be hit by the benefit cap. Depending if residents already use a bank account or not, these groups will need different types of assistance.

Vulnerable tenants should be prioritised. Your housing management system will probably provide the means of recording this information, although if it is up to date and can be relied on is a different matter. To equip front line staff, training may be needed in dealing with tenant questions and anxieties. This may include helping them budget.

Where bank accounts are a viable option, residents should be able to move to direct debit. You may be able to introduce extra DD cycles to support UC payment cycles. For some, the move to monthly budgeting will be a struggle. As will the occasional 5 rather than 4 week month, in which to pay their rent.  I would not be surprised if some landlords resort back to rent collectors in some areas. A return to the ‘Gilbert strip’ might be imminent. By that I do not mean Arizona’s best gentleman’s club either!

Four long years left (so far).

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

PS If there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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1 comment:

  1. Tony

    The overall benefit cap has been delayed until summer (thats all we know and that vague) while 4 pilot programmes in London are trialed.