St Albans man upset after being asked for rent paid by benefits

Danny Smith with his letter from Hightown Housing Association.

Danny Smith with his letter from Hightown Housing Association. - Credit: Archant

A vulnerable man is calling for changes in the way a housing association operates after being pressured for rent that is already being paid.

Over several years Hightown Housing Association has written numerous letters to resident Danny Smith demanding arrears on his Waverley Lodge flat.

He is in receipt of full housing benefit due to his disability which means he cannot work. Not only that but his full rent is paid directly to Hightown.

The situation became so bad this year that he eventually sought help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

He said: “I have been asked several times to pay rent which is already being paid in full, directly to my landlord, because they say I am in rent arrears. I am not behind on my rent at all. It is just that anybody on housing benefit has their rent paid in arrears as that is how the district council issue it.

“It really made me panic.

“It has made my anxiety so much worse and I am so grateful to St Albans Citizens Advice Bureau for helping me.”

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The 45-year-old said that he knows that many people who rely on housing benefit to cover or help pay their rental cost are not as vocal as he is, and may not feel able to stand up to Hightown’s demands.

He said that the association’s housing officers are monitored on their rent account activity and some have suggested that he “just pay a few pounds a week to get on top of the arrears”.

He said that people on full state benefit or in low income jobs simply cannot be making up for what is essentially just a procedural issue with the timing of council payment to landlords and the way the tenancies stipulate rent should be paid in advance.

A caseworker from the CAB has written to Hightown to make sure they are aware of the situation, in the hope that it will not happen again.

A spokesperson for Hightown said: “Hightown supports tenants to help them meet the terms of their tenancy agreement, which includes paying their rent in advance; we have a dedicated financial inclusion service that helps people understand their entitlement to benefits and avoid building up debts, which they may later find it difficult to clear.

“We can confirm that we have sent one letter to Mr Smith about his account in the last year and we are sorry if this has worried him; he has not contacted us directly to discuss it.

“We will try to contact Mr Smith to discuss his concerns and offer him any appropriate support.”