A letter to address UC flaws to private landlords

A letter to address UC flaws to private landlords

13:33 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago 29

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Hi to private housing providers, I would like to share a recent letter (via email) I sent to the UC regional partnership manager (sandra.stewart@dwp.gov.uk & elaine.livingston@dwp.gov.uk) to address some of my concerns over the flaws & issues I am encountering with the UC office & staff implementation of the UC housing cost when offering private housing to claimant(s) in receipt of UC. You can also contact your own UC regional partnership manager in England & Wales by checking their details here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-partnerships/national-partnership-teams

Here is my letter:

‘Dear Sandra/Elaine,

We hope you are well.

We are a professional private landlord operating under Marble Properties Ltd in Scotland mainly around Glasgow area.

We currently have around *** tenants on UC full services and presumably more to come as more of our tenants are forced to switch over from their existing Hb.

We are writing to express our deep concerns over the level of poor services received from the UC office administration since it really got started around 2016 in Scotland in comparison to the Housing benefit office administration.

Our main concerns are:-

There are unacceptable levels of or more precisely ‘lack of adequate & appropriate’ communication between the UC office and private landlords even with the tenant’s giving explicit consent to share all information with their private landlords. Especially at the beginning of a new tenancy, during a tenancy and most importantly end of the tenancy. There are no fit & proper platform for a private landlord to appropriately communicate with the UC office in terms of no proper email address, no online platform/portal despite there is for housing associations, phone support is limited with Gdpr as a pretext again despite the tenant has given explicit consent to share all information.

Out of our existing 37 tenants on UC most of who have APA set up, we do not receive any form of payment remittances to confirm date of payments, amount of payments, and period payments are for which is not acceptable. Not by post or email. With the housing benefit office we received a single remittance for all our tenants on a 4 weekly interval. We are currently not receiving any form of remittance at all. We would request a single remittance outlinging all payments of each month listing the details like name, address, amount of payment & period payment are for. This is preferably by email for speed & efficiency reasons which is in line with the original ethos of UC cutting down on paperwork & efficiency.Can you clarify on this?

Illogical implementation of APA. During the course of a tenancy while APA is set up but a tenant has any change, without notice your staff can direct the housing cost back to the tenant without notice to the tenant nor ourselves which is not acceptable or logical. For example, one tenant may have been on housing benefit for over 10 years, has historical addiction & health issues and had their HB safeguarded paid direct to us, under the APA tiers the tenant has the right to continue the direct payment under APA. It is imminent the tenant will have some form of changes as we all do but that does not mean all of a sudden the tenant or ourselves are happy for the housing cost to be paid into the tenant’s bank account without notice to either side. With the HB office any direct payment to the landlord review would be carried out by contacting both the tenant and landlord in writing to query the prospect of directing payment back to the tenant which allow a more acceptable opportunity of typically 28 days for each side to answer back to the HB office for both sides to request either way. In most cases, both sides would request the continuation of the direct payment. For the UC office to just bypass everything and do not carry out fit and proper review process during any change and simply re-direct APA payments back to the tenant is not acceptable. This is bad practice and needs to change.

At the end of a tenancy, we have numerous occasions when a tenant has registered their new address in their online UC account for the last 2 months living in our property while giving us notice they are leaving and in some occasion do not even give us notice with the knowledge that the existing flawed set up of UC, their housing cost will be paid to either the tenant for the last 2 months or to their ‘future’ landlord for the next 2 months while they are still staying at our property. When we contact the UC helpline to address this, your staff are not interested to know. The tenant can only do this because the current UC set up is flawed and they know they can falsely claim the housing cost for themselves or to the future landlord. With the previous housing benefit office administration, they would listen and avoid this from happening if we notify them of this to prevent a tenant with a live tenancy still staying at our property from paying all their ongoing housing costs to the tenants or to their ‘future’ landlord. The HB office would verify with us then end the HB from the date it actually ended. For the UC office to allow this to happen is plain wrong and turning a blind eye from the UC office. We would ask for changes to improve this situation where a landlord can inform the UC office when this is happening and the UC housing cost is paid to where the tenant is factually residing with a live tenancy agreement not where the tenant register at. This can be achieved by again open fit and proper communication between the landlord and the UC office which does not exist at the moment.

Back to point 1 above, if there is at least an email that a private landlord can have open communication with the UC office then that should resolve most of the matters. However, the current and only email address we are asked to use, ucfull.service@dwp.gov.uk, we, in general, do not get a response. But when we do your staff often respond to say the email address is only for a restricted list of queries use from an unnamed responder. In other words, not replying to the actual communication. With a close and restricted communication administration, how is it possible to effectively resolve and administer a tenancy? We would ask your office to open up transparency and administer an open, fit and proper communication with private landlords when the tenant has already given explicit consent.

We have lost count of the amount of times your phone staff have abruptly hung up on the phone during a landlord query. The most recent one was a call regarding one of our tenant, Miss ***** at ******, flat 3.1, G***, G** *** on Tue 26.01.21 a call we made for a landlord query between 10.35am to 11.20am, we 0800 328 5644 and pressed option 2 UC queries, then option again 2 for other queries other from advance payment, a staff called David picked up then we explained to him a tenant said she has cancelled her UC housing costs on 25.01.21 after several disputes over us requesting access for several compliance work eg annual gas safety checks and renewing the expired Carbon Monoxide alarm etc which the tenant deems as harassment, he said it is not that easy for the tenant to cancel housing cost through APA. We requested a landlord query for the caseworker to call us back to clarify the situation. Without looking into who the tenant was, he then said he is in the general enquiry line and I can not request a landlord query & can not request a call back from the caseworker and need to redial the same number and press option 1 for an appointment for a landlord query. From previous calls, we knew that is not true and that we can ask for landlord query call back so we asked him again to clarify, but before we can he said abruptly ‘OPTION 1!’ with a raised tone of voice then hung up the phone at 10.43am. Just in case we were wrong we redialled straight away and pressed option 1 as he asked us then 1 again got through to Isabel who said need to press option 1 then option 2 call ended 10.50am.Again we redialled (10.53am-11.00am) Option 1, then option 2, Lewis picked up this time and said this is the appointment line for work coaches for tenants to book with job centre and it is the ‘general enquiries’ line I’ve to call back to request a landlord query for a call back from the caseworker putting us in a full circle as we anticipated. We redialled (11.05am-11.17am) again and pressed option 2 UC queries line, then option 2 other query from advance payment, got through to general enquiries line again spoke to male/Naill, explained everything and asked for the caseworker call back through landlord query, Naill said he’s checked and doesn’t need a call back as the tenant has not cancelled rent but will take a note. Said don’t know why his colleague David asked us to press option 1 to go to an appointment. We are sure you can listen to the calls and see for yourself. This is the kind of treatment we get often. It is not only wrong information your staff insist on giving to landlord it is also the rude hanging up of conversation while speech is still in progress. This is not an isolated occasion, this is a regular thing with the UC phone staff who just simply raise a tone of voice followed by hanging up on a call. This kind of lawless administration must change as those staff are representing the 21st century UK government.

We find it totally unacceptable as an example which can apply to any UC claim that if a tenant assessment period is from the 1st to the last day of each month and gets paid on the 7th of each month when a tenant moves out on the 30th of that month 1 day before the end of that month with 31 days but factually stayed at the rented property for 30 days of that assessment period that the UC office will not pay anything for those 30 days for the housing cost to the landlord. Instead, the full housing cost for those 30 days at our property is paid either to the tenant direct or to the next landlord. This does not in any way mimics the real working environment nor prepares any claimant for work. In reality, no one in any line of work will be expected to work for 30 days and when employment ends on the 31st day of that month the former employee gets £0 pay for those 30 days of work just because the employee did not work for the 31st day of that month. Again the implementation of this is seriously wrong, unethical and flawed. We would ask you to make changes to firstly open up fit and proper communication to establish the factual date of check out or the date the tenant have left/abandoned a property followed by a pro-rata final payment of the UC housing cost which is what the hb office does and is clearly fit and property.

The current UC administration practices need to improve on multiple levels, open up to fit and proper communication & administration practices. The issues above are not policy issues. It is the flawed practices & flawed implementation by collective staff and we urge you to listen to the concerns and make changes for the better.

We would appreciate the response by email.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Stay Safe, Mr Alan W.



Comments

by Mick Roberts

14:52 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

U telling me they have no way to communicate with us at all, the very important Landlord that communicates with us.

Below are my faults so far-There are many more not added yet.

The 3rd Party Payment deductions team are even worse as u know.

They will change all this eventually, but the homeless & personal cost will be massive by then. It was only 2008 when LHA was introduced that mistakes were made, why don't they learn from history from their sister departments.

I refuse to ring the line any more.

UC Faults so far Jan2021

Date periods when tenant leaves u, one day before BAP, Landlord doesn't get paid for the whole 30 days. New Landlord gets 30 days rent for just one day accommodation. Or tenant pockets the whole 30 days when they already in arrears to old Landlord.

Landlord can't report what the correct rent is. So a tenant, often an aggrieved tenant living in a £695pm house can tell Universal Credit UC that the rent is £50pm and UC believe her and only pay the Landlord £50pm.
This happens often when the tenant is subject to the Benefit Cap, so to stop the tenant losing money out her income, she just tells UC a lower amount. So the tenant isn't being Benefit Capped at all, comes out Landlords money now.

Direct arrears payments, wasting so much money when they know the tenant is already in arrears.

Asking tenant if in arrears, they say No, and then paying them £1,000’s in Rent Housing Element HE. The only person that can u tell u truth on rent arrears is the Landlord.
Explicit consent was removed in Dec 2017. If Landlord says tenant is in arrears, I need direct payment now, no longer can u ask tenant unless tenant has 100% proof they have paid Landlord. Lots of DWP staff are just asking tenant & then not paying Landlord, even when 2 4 6 months of arrears have built up.

I’m getting more tenants on Universal Credit UC. Govt & DWP not listening at all. Fraudsters setting up claims in my tenants name & my tenants money gets stopped. My tenant rings up UC & UC says the Fraudster has to ring to sort it out-U cun’t make it up!

6 Jan 2021 BolNic
UC pay old Landlord even though tenant left, moved into new house new Landlord & it's all verified on journal the change of address 1 Dec. She said nowhere on journal to put new Landlords bank details. UC said they paid someone, can't confirm bank details as data protection. We know it's not new Landlord as UC han't got new Landlord bank details. So now UC paying old Landlord even though tenant left a month ago. And no easy way to solve this. New Landlord doesn't get rent on this occasion.

UC doesn't talk to u AT ALL. U can get tenant leave without telling u-Cause lots of UC tenants do that-And UC will not tell u, whereas old HB system would confirm.

If you getting no rent in from a tenant & you can easily see what's wrong, UC won't talk to u & it takes 2 years for the complaints process to get back to u to say Ooh yes Mick, DWP should have paid you £625pm for 2 years = £15,000 but cause the tenant left last month, we not making DWP pay u anything.

Tenants in arrears who's Landlord is now finally receiving the rent, are putting on their journal Ooh I have new Landlord now. Here are the bank details. And they giving their mates bank details. And they now get the £700 rent in their bank, give their mate a tenner, tenant in arrears laughing all the way to the bank & Legitimate Landlord is again getting no rent in.
They are also sharing this information on Facebook & other UC tenants are now doing it. It is Fraud & DWP UC are doing nothing about it.
HB used to check Land Registry & also directly ask the Landlord for Rent proof & bank details. UC doesn't hence fraud is committed.

DWP MUST talk to the Landlord and ask the landlord what the rent is. Landlord knows this, tenants very often get confused with their rent with it being either weekly, 4 weekly, monthly, giving DWP wrong figures, inexperienced imbecile DWP with no common sense getting it wrong. I had several months ago a Job Centre worker put a tenants WHOLE monthly rent on a nice 2 bed house down as £72 pm. As that's what the tenant told her. Job centre worker din't question her. Tenant was telling her the monthly top up she currently pays. And this was for a woman with 2 kids in a nice 2 bed house. Gees to not say Are u sure your rent is that low?

UC asks tenant for tenancy. Tenant takes 10 year old tenancy in. UC say That's no good, needs to be within 12 months. No it ruddy doesn't. Novice Landlords are reluctantly typing new tenancy as they need to get paid & then they tied into all sorts of new anti-Landlord latest regs.
UC asks for this tenancy to proof rent, which proves nothing as it's an amount from 10 years ago which is different now due to inflation & the cost increasing attacks from Govt Councils. And tenants can print these tenancies theirself. Excluding the Landlord allows Fraud.

by Alan Wong

15:45 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 08/02/2021 - 14:52
Mick, your lists is almost identical to my complaints to the UC regional partnership manager. Bear in mind I am in Scotland. So I would urge all private landlords to write to their UC regional partnership manager in their region which can be found on the link I provided above. What else can we do? We must try at least. Write to the MPs, they won't have a clue what is going on. But again we still should keep trying. We can't give up and give in to such a lawless administration possibly by creation.

by Alan Wong

15:51 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 08/02/2021 - 14:52
Also a tenant can take in a 'landlord letter' instead of a tenancy agreement to verify a tenancy & housing liability. So for example if a tenancy is 10 years old presumably (in Scotland it is open ended tenancies eg no end date so can last 10 years or more now) with several rent rise, so taking in a 10 years old tenancy to the UC case worker is no good as it will show an old rent amount. So what i do is give my new tenants a 'landlord letter' confirming our full details, address rented out, tenants full name, my landlord reg number and the monthly housing liability eg rent amount etc on the letter. That is in their Dwp UC guidance and what I have been doing for over 1 year now. No need for a tenancy agreement unless sit is fairly new one with the correct rent amount.

by Trisha

16:10 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Wow......eye watering incompetence, and people wonder why landlords are wary of dss. The system spectacularly fails both landlords and tenants. All this could be easily avoided by bringing back the old system of paying the landlord direct. 🤷🏻‍♀️

by Chris @ Possession Friend

16:29 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Trisha at 08/02/2021 - 16:10
or, just operating U.C in a competent manner
although we are talking about Government here !

by Mick Roberts

16:40 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 08/02/2021 - 15:45Ha ha brilliant,
Shows we have major problems then.
I've met my regional partnership manager several times, he don't even know the rules.
Yes we got to keep trying, no MP's Labour or Conservative seem to be bothered though.
Yes I keep telling 'em no need for tenancy agreement, but the new no common sense kids think the tenancy is the only thing they can accept.

by Jo Westlake

16:52 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

I'm at the other end of the scale with UC. They have overpaid me and won't tell me how to return the money or if some of it should be refunded to the tenant and some to them.
The tenant moved out on 2nd December fully up to date with his rent. UC paid me £144.78 on 3rd December. I have repeatedly asked them if this should be returned to them or the tenant. My instinct is it should be the tenant because UC is paid in arrears but UC have so far failed to confirm that. Obviously I don't want to give it to the tenant and then UC say it needs to go back to them.
I then received another payment of £234.78 on 31st December. This one I'm fairly sure should go back to UC but they have failed to give me details of how to refund it.
I have spent hours phoning and emailing UC. UC said phone debt management. They said phone UC who then said phone TPP. Their recorded message said they don't answer the phone so another call to UC. They then gave me an email address for TPP. It bounced back and said they only respond to a specific form. I filled that in and got a reply that only UC can deal with the over payment. I've reminded someone else twice and been told the case worker will deal with it. They still haven't.

by Alan Wong

17:02 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Jo Westlake at 08/02/2021 - 16:52
That is a rather nice problem to have. Most of us including myself are underpaid. As far as I know if they made an error on their end with no involvement of you or your tenant by overpayment, it is not recoverable. That is the case for the Lha too. But of course one may choose to return it if there is not arrears to offset.

by Jo Westlake

17:32 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to Alan Wong

You're right. It is a better position to be in than most.
All credit to the tenant being a conscientious, decent human being. He had huge problems with unemployment, under payment of benefit, wrong information from HB and UC, depression, part time minimum wage job, zero hours job, etc.
At one point his rent arrears amounted to £1800. Due to a combination of his depression and mistakes made by officials he was denied around £2000 in benefits that he should have received.

I spent many, many hours trying to point him in the right direction for help with his claim, encouraged him to apply for suitable jobs and generally tried to motivate him when things got really bleak.

He eventually got a full time job and
gradually got the arrears under control.
Unfortunately he lost the full time job when the company went bust and is now a furloughed hospitality worker.
By the time he moved out he had paid back every penny.

So there are decent tenants out there on UC.
It would certainly help if UC sorted out their communication issues and liased with both landlord and tenant. First time claimants often haven't got a clue what they're entitled to or how to claim it.

by Mick Roberts

17:48 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Jo Westlake at 08/02/2021 - 16:52Your case is typical Jo,
None of em can answer us. They pass it to each other.
TPP are the thickest people on the planet.
All we asking for is to talk to someone human & direct payment & we can solve thousands homeless, £ Millions to the taxpayer, everyone wins.

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