13:33 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago 29
Hi to private housing providers, I would like to share a recent letter (via email) I sent to the UC regional partnership manager (firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com) 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:
Here is my letter:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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