A letter to address UC flaws to private landlords

by Readers Question

13:33 PM, 8th February 2021
About 2 months ago

A letter to address UC flaws to private landlords

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A letter to address UC flaws to private landlords

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

Gary Silver

16:14 PM, 12th February 2021
About 2 months ago

I made contact this afternoon with m local UC DWP partner manager as recommended and received this reply:

Hello Gary

Thank you for your email explaining that you have had some problems with APAs and that you have experienced a deterioration of services as well. I also note the seriousness of this matter given the relationship between the problems experienced and eviction procedures.

I have already supplied your enquiry to a senior leader who leads services concerning the housing element of benefits including APAs and asked that contact is made with you as soon as possible to resolve this. I do not have access to systems and records to explore and resolve this personally. My fellow senior leader is organising to get back to you directly.

Thank you for your time and attention, do contact me again should there be any undue delay in their response.

N
Nick Mellor
North West Group | Huyton Jobcentre Plus, Edendale House, Lathom Road, Liverpool, L36 9XS | http://www.dwp.gov.uk We Are DWP

We live in hope !!

Mick Roberts

8:42 AM, 13th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Silver at 12/02/2021 - 16:14
Well done Gary,

Why doesn't this Partner Manager have access to systems is baffling.

My fellow senior leader is organising to get back to you directly.
He/She should not be organising, the should be ringing u NOW.

At least he says can get back to him.

Hope being the appropriate word.

radnor man

17:24 PM, 13th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 13/02/2021 - 08:42
Same here.
Been waiting for a reply from senior leader in relation to receiving over payments from a departed tenant.
Now been waiting over a week for a promised contact concerning a request for third party payment concerning another tenant that prefers to spend her housing element on herself rather than landlord,
The more tenant we have drifting over to UC is gona be a nightmare, how we handle it is gonna be difficult, or could in some cases break us

Mick Roberts

9:31 AM, 15th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Silver at 12/02/2021 - 15:16Exactly Gary,
As many of us know:
Old system, if tenant done a bunk, HB would write to tell Landlord & say we not paying u any more, tenant gone. That helps Landlord move on & not prolong losses any more. UC doesn't talk to Landlord, knows tenant has gone, ignores Landlord & Very important house completely, which we could get back quicker & house the next homeless tenant quicker. As it is, some of us/u daren't go in the house for 3 months for fear of illegal eviction. And next time we don't take UC.

Rbinscotland

12:23 PM, 15th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Same. Since March 2020 was paid About £3,000 ( bonus, but not mine). I told UC but they didn't and still don't know who it belonged to. I had to give them all payment info from my tenants that I'm expecting monies from. Name address amount etc. They couldn't findbit because tge folk at UC are not allowed personal data . After 6 months of to and fro my MP got involved. 1 year later, we can assume I'm in the wrong, because I've been overpaid. ( remember I told them) they have sent me a figure I need to repay ( but cannot account for it because they don't have their own information) .Basically the number I can only agree with are the ones I've given them. But they say I need to prove I've not ecieved the balance. Difficult to show something I've jot got.
In between all this. And after giving them details of who I should get UC rent and arrears from they told me there are no payments made for certain tenants, which there are, and still are. And crazily, as mentioned before telling me they are or have stopped another payment. Because the tenant doesn't live there any more. Fortunately fir me I was told this in November and the tenant set up another claim about August. As an aside the tenant owed about £2,000 and left the place in a mess costing another £4000.

When my MP ask why I wasn't told before the payments stopped and why payment was still coming to me on others not my tenants. They denied all knowledge. And couldn't say because of data protection.
Additional problem caused by the money of about £7k going into my account meant I do not qualify for uc myself as I have savings as they see it. And even though I explained the situation they said repay it then......round and round it goes.
Frustrated........but interested to follow this thread. I think it hits ALL the nails on the head.

Alan Wong

15:11 PM, 24th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 08/02/2021 - 18:02
Hi Bill, thanks for the response. I agree with what you've wrote. I have still not had any further response from the UC regional partnership manager. We must collectively continue our efforts to campaign for changes for better. We are housing providers and should be treated much better and coherently. As it stands the Dwp UC administration is getting away with 'administrative riots'.

Alan Wong

15:14 PM, 24th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Chris @ Possession Friend at 08/02/2021 - 18:55
I would consider a Watch Group Chris if others you mentioned would liaise to initiate a group. In the meanwhile please call continue to contact the UC regional partnership manager to address the levels of maladministration & malpractices.

Rbinscotland

16:18 PM, 24th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 24/02/2021 - 15:14
Totally agree a watch group. Collating the issues which seem regular areas of concern would be good.

Something someone mentioned earlier about up providing houses, accommodation etc. I thought about this and my "small" portfolio provide homes to 30 adults and about 7 children. And although they are understanding they don't always understand the complexity when they are put on or apply to UC for help. Honestly, the many thoughts that enter your head when a tenant says this is going to happen. To me will they stay? Will they pay ? Will I be putting people out on the street ( never through want) but circumstances. But the biggest thought is when are UC going to make payments, will it cover all. And how many mistakes will they make. (See my earlier entry regarding the UC mistakes, horrendous.

Chris @ Possession Friend

0:06 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Rbinscotland at 24/02/2021 - 16:18
Re Alan & rbinscotland,
Please contact me on YourCase@PossessionFriend.uk to discuss further ?
Thanks, Chris

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