A case of communication, cooperation and compliance

A case of communication, cooperation and compliance

16:03 PM, 1st July 2019, About 2 years ago 21

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I wanted to share this story, because it demonstrates the importance of direct payments from tenants in receipt of Universal Credit to Private Rented Sector (PRS) landlords.  Not only does it give landlords peace of mind, it also safeguards tenancies, ultimately preventing homelessness.

Last week, (Tuesday 18th June) a landlord contacted Caridon Landlord Solutions (CLS) because his tenant, who receives housing cost contributions as part of Universal Credit, was in more than £3000 rental arrears.

As a result of the arrears, the landlord had made several attempts to apply to The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to set up an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA), meaning the housing element of the tenant’s Universal Credit would be paid directly to the landlord.

The APA kept being declined, because the tenant had put a case forward to say that there were disrepair issues at the property that the landlord had not addressed.  The tenant also said that when the landlord upgraded the central heating system, he did not use a qualified gas safety engineer.

By the time the landlord approach us, it was clear that communication between the landlord and tenant had broken down. Our role was to not only mediate but find a solution which kept both the landlord and tenant happy.

We contacted DWP to get a clear understanding of what was actually happening regarding the APA and were advised that we needed to speak to the tenant’s solicitor in order to resolve the disrepair issues which were preventing the APA from being approved. We then contacted the solicitor directly who said that the case had been resolved and closed!

Clearly, there was a miscommunication between all the parties involved. At this point, we gathered all the necessary evidence to show that there were more than 8 weeks of rent arrears and that disrepair issues had been resolved. We then applied for the APA and third-party deductions to recoup the arrears on behalf of the landlord and submitted a stage one complaint.

Presenting the correct information meant that DWP were able to come to a decision much quicker and in less than a week the APA was approved.

This situation could have turned out very differently. The landlord may have decided to evict the tenant when communication between the two broke down. However, the tenant is now satisfied that the minor repairs at the property have been carried out, and the landlord is now happy to keep the tenant on knowing he is receiving rental payments directly.

I’m pleased to say that communication, cooperation and compliance have rectified this issue.

Contact Sherrelle for offline Universal Credit advice

Sherrelle is an independent consultant and is recommended by Property118 for landlords who require professional advice and assistance in regards to dealing with Universal credit related matters


by Alan Wong

10:29 AM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 07/07/2019 - 13:38
Well said Bill. I have had countless cases when the Dwp do not follow the national guidance with regards to APA requests then later keep telling me to complain to the MP trying to manipulate their wrong doings into 'policy issues' when it is nothing to do with policies but its their malpractice and maladministration causing the rent arrears.

by Mick Roberts

10:31 AM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/07/2019 - 10:29
I got exactly that reply on Friday. Complaints replying saying it's Policy issue to so I can't forward it to ICE.
Don't think so, there is loads side issues too that will get the complaint too ICE and we'll get the policy issues looked at and changed while we at it. We must all keep complaining to get this daft stuff changed.

by Alan Wong

10:43 AM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 08/07/2019 - 10:31
The general feeling I am getting is the Dwp themselves are rebelling against UC and do not want to administer it. I feel they are trying to use all the messed up cases deliberately caused by them as an opportunity to get us to complain to the MP to achieve their agenda of scrapping UC or at least get another office to administer it.

I see a pattern of almost deliberate wrong doing then saying it is policy issue when it is not. Sadly they are using landlords rent money to do all this and risking tenancies and the welfare of so many families, children and landlords.

by Mick Roberts

12:46 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/07/2019 - 10:43
Yes, amazing how many mistakes they make. My 7 year old lad (who I haven't got) says How can they get it so wrong Daddy.

We could solve a lot by just letting them have email communication with Landlord which has been the case with HB for years. So so simple to solve.

Even if they don't want to talk to us, let us tell them Look this case is wrong, here's the name and address, don't tell me ote, just go away and look at it.
I actually had that on one case, been wrong for 18 months, now gone to ICE, but a woman has looked in meantime after a UC meeting with me and says Ooh yeah system error. If only they allowed us to tell them 18 months ago.

That's it, they playing with people's homes while they get it all wrong.

by Bill irvine

14:40 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/07/2019 - 10:29
Good afternoon

I started pursuing rental loss issues as far back as 2014 when, at that time, I was able to secure compensation for PRS and SRS clients. In August 2015 DWP in an exchange with its hierarchy (Neil Couling, Director General et al) it agreed to:
a) Suspending payment of the "housing costs element" pending a decision on the merits of the APA request (as councils did with HB); and
b) Consider "Special Payment" (compensation) requests where maladministration had caused the landlord wholly avoidable rental loss.

However before the ink was dry, it then reneged on its agreements. Some of you may recall my "open letter" to Mr Couling (published here and Property Tribes) reminding him of his broken promises and his scandalous response, where he claimed everything was hunky dory with UC and cautioned me that I was scaremongering. He also maintained "explicit consent" was not an issue and, less than a year later, was forced to withdraw it in relation to APA administration.

Since these events I've been encouraging landlords, UK wide, to pursue any such losses, using the DWP's Complaints Procedures. The problem with that is, it takes months, rather than weeks, to get through the internal stages; when you refer to ICE you then have another 18 months to wait before the investigation stage; plus a further 6 months for an outcome. I now have around 17 cases awaiting investigation, some involving £000,s per claim. If ICE finds in my client's favour this should help other claims still in the pipeline.

We also recently successfully sued DWP in a Small Claims action in Scotland (now called Simple Procedure) and have another case in London, using the Online Money Claim procedure, which has been listed for hearing next month. In these cases, DWP agreed to redirect payments, following an APA request, only to later mess things up by paying the delinquent tenant, who, yet again, misused the sum in question. The London case involves £3500.

In the Scottish case DWP's solicitors tried the strong arm technique of claiming the Sheriff Court did not have jurisdiction and the matter would need to be pursued as a Judicial Review case, where the costs of raising the action would have been prohibitive. However, I drafted a response, on behalf of my PRS client, and DWP conceded on the morning of the scheduled hearing, thus avoiding the court ruling in our favour.

I expect a similar defense from DWP in the London County Court case, where I believe the lower court has jurisdiction. It was certainly the County Court that was used in the past concerning HB/LHA when the Council failed to follow procedure properly. I'll produce a members' briefing once we have the outcome.

So, my advice is, keep challenging DWP, no matter what they throw at you. At some point they'll come a cropper on these critically important issues.

Bill Irvine

by Alan Wong

15:20 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 08/07/2019 - 14:40
Bill i have so many real cases I've challenged the Dwp on Apa wrong doings as well as their general administration. I've informed the Scottish Association of Landlords and apparently a senior in the Dwp Louise Cook But with the GDPR, I feel the government has a way to 'disguise' all cases saying no matter what wrongs they've done, I am not allowed to address it publicly so in a way they always can hide their maladministration and malpractice which is a problem for everyone.

Louise Cook from the Dwp never response to any complaint i copy her in too the email complaints. But I am not giving up and continuing to try to hold them accountable for their appalling malpractices as much as I could in a civilise manner.

The issues I am encountering with the Dwp UC office at the moment are:

1. They generally do not communicate with landlord when APA is set up from, when it ends and any changes. They also do not confirm the period any APA payments cover.
2. They have now said to me with APA application outwith rent arrears tiers, I must fill in the secure UC47 form and 'send it by post' only and email application is not acceptable. The adviser said to me that is for security reasons which begs believe and does not make sense. How does sending documents by post make it any more secure apart from giving them another excuse not to process the APA claiming it is lost in the post as the Lha office use to do all the time.
3. They say they will not pay the last months if the tenant does not complete the last assessment period meaning if 30 days pass on that month and the assessment period ends on 31st of that month, the landlord do not get rent paid for 30 days and that is their ill policy.
3. They generally do not follow the guidance for APA and when challenged over the phone, half the time they hang up on the phone if they can not answer a question they know they are wrong with.
4. There is no accountability for their wrong doings in their totally disguised administration all under the pretext of GDPR to hide themselves.

I really feel it is setting this country back decades and the administration is as i tell them over and over again on the phone, uncivilised practice. Not sure what the answer is if this is 2019 government administration in the UK.

by Mick Roberts

15:25 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/07/2019 - 15:20
I've said exactly same Alan.
The way UC operate has gone back 20 years. HB as awkward as it was, the senior staff still had common sense, u could talk to em and email em.
With UC, there is no communication whatsoever and their answer is the superbly responsible tenant must deal with it.

The senior UC complaints managers seem to have less intelligence than the lowest ranking HB trainees of 1989.

by Bill irvine

16:29 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/07/2019 - 15:20
Hi Alan

Louise Cook is the Senior Partnership Manager, Scotland. I know her well. Recently, I asked her to provide the names of each Work Coach, Account Manager and their email addresses so landlords like you could communicate your queries and concerns direct to the Decision Makers, operating at the coal face. She refused my request, even though I'd received the same information from DWP (already in a template format) for all parts of London. Her reason - the template would quickly be out of date as staff change frequently. Apparently, it's beyond the scope of her and colleagues to update as and when this happens. The real reason for not wishing to share the information is - she, like so many of her senior colleagues, don't want landlords to gain full access as the truth would be told be her subordinates - staff under-resourced, poorly trained; poorly supported, IT deficient etc. etc. I've subsequently written to Neil Couling and Amber Rudd MP twice with not even an acknowledgement. So, I recently wrote to Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of the SS Advisory Committee and Frank Field Chair of W & Ps Committee to expose the level of unaccountably that exists in DWP's hierarchy. Truly shocking!

by Mick Roberts

16:58 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Alan, https://universalcreditadvice.com/ has loads of extra tips and help we don't know about. And all the stuff DWP don't want us to know.
And Alan and any other HB LHA UC DWP Landlords listening, if u can put the link of this forum thread on Twitter and tag @NeilCouling and @AmberRudd if enough of us do it one day, the penny might finally drop with them. We're only trying to prevent homelessness and it's shocking that DWP don't want to work with Landlords on that.
The DWP lot on Twitter don't like these Tweets and if they get enough of em, they may act.

by Alan Wong

21:39 PM, 8th July 2019, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 08/07/2019 - 16:58
Hi i'm new to twitter, but just started the account. How do i tag @NeilCouling and @AmberRudd? I searched it up and it says I have to add a photo then tag them in it?

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