Can I report this to the police for fraud as UC might not do anything?

by Readers Question

10:00 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Can I report this to the police for fraud as UC might not do anything?

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Can I report this to the police for fraud as UC might not do anything?

Hi all, I recently got a possession order from the courts after a year and £15,000 of arrears. My issue is that the tenant was claiming Housing Elements.

I informed Universal Credit (UC) several times about the non-payment, during the period and asked for direct payment, but the tenant was quick to lie about the boiler being broken, which in turn, UC continued to pay him for a further 10 months (despite my numerous calls & warnings) until last month they made direct payments to the landlord.

The UC has now confirmed they paid the tenant 10 months out of 12 month’s rent. The tenant has pocketed in excess of £10,000 of the taxpayers & public funds meant for rent payments to fund his lifestyle etc.

Any answers on these will be much appreciated:
1. Can I report this to the police for theft/ fraud as UC might not do anything about it?
2. Has UC got any liability for this. (I applied for direct payments 4 different times).
3. What are the procedures/ costs of arranging a good bailiff if necessary?

Thanks,
Jaye

Comments

John Mac

10:55 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

1. No
2. Doubtful, but you should at least raise a complaint.
3. A Bailiff is the last stage in recovery, you have to get a judgement 1st (use MCOL) after 1st issuing a letter before action.

My advice would be to join a LL org i.e NRLA & use their advice line. I have a discount code if you decide to join.

Smartermind

10:58 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

If the tenant was entitled to Housing Element, then no fraud has been committed. If the tenant has failed to pass on the rent to you as the landlord, then that is a civil dispute between you and the tenant and not a criminal matter, so the police won't get involved. Did you claim for the arrears as part of the possession order. If so then that is the avenue you have to pursue. However, if the tenant is on benefits, it is unlikely you will get anywhere.

April

11:11 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

If I were you and you have no confidence the UC won't pursue because they did not act on your previous communications I would contact their boss (i.e. your MP). When I worked at HMRC as soon as we got an MP complaint letter we jumped to it and I suspect the same will be the case if you complain about the UC delays. It is their job to pursue the tenant for any money they paid the tenant during the period when they should have been paying you direct had they not delayed. I would find out who your MP is and write to them to explain the situation asking that UC pay the outstanding rent because their delay has impacted on your income and that they pursue the tenant for repayment of the rent that was paid by them to the tenant while they were delaying what was the correct procedure. They should have actioned your request more quickly and their delay has led to your loss. Please let us know how you get on.

Bill irvine

11:48 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Jaye

I have a great deal of sympathy for landlords like you and the hundreds, if not thousand others, that apply to DWP for redirection of the "housing costs element" only to be thwarted by a combination of tenant delinquency (sometimes fraudulent actions like, manufacturing new ASTs with payments being made to relatives bank accounts) and downright maladministration on the part of DWP staff, some of whom make decisions which simply beggar belief.

Given what you've said about repeatedly asking DWP to address the issue of redirection of the housing costs, you'd be better pursuing a complaint against DWP, especially now you have the possession order and can demonstrate a large part of your rental loss was caused by DWP's inaction. The downside to this is, it might take 2/3 years to secure an outcome. To date, most landlord complaints of maladministration that I've been involved with, have been upheld by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE).

The Alternative Payment Arrangement scheme was designed to prevent exactly what's happened in your case. When you complete the online application for redirection, DWP is supposed to notify the tenant and provide him/her, 1 week to challenge the basis of your application with credible evidence. An allegation of a "boiler problem" should be irrelevant. What should count is, whether you can demonstrate that you've satisfied one of the Tier 1 factors. If you have, DWP should redirect on the basis redirection to you is in the best interests of the tenant and his family if he has one.

On far too many occasions, DWP's staff allow themselves to be influenced by a range of irrelevant factors including, the notion tenants still need to provide consent. The need for consent was removed in December 2017 and should never have been a consideration in the first place!

If you haven't already made a complaint, email your local Practice Manager or Service leader to start the ball rolling.

Bill

Alan Wong

11:53 AM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Absolute disgrace of the Dwp UC office staff. It is clear maladministration & practice. A tenant not paying his rent for more than 2 months grant the direct payment to the landlord although even that is unfair to allow them to pocket 2 months of the UC housing cost to start with. In my opinion the tenant took 10 months of UC housing cost and not paid it, kept it for himself for other use claiming it is for housing cost is fraud. And both the UC office & police should recognise it as such and hold those tenant's accountable for criminal charges. This will be another thing I will try to add to the list of maladministration from the UC office to ask for addressing...

April

12:34 PM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

It really shouldn't take 2/3 years if you get your MP involved. We, at HMRC, when we had months of old post sitting in filing cabinets, used to run around like headless chickens when we got an "MP Complaint Case". It didn't even sit on anyone's desk. We had to drop what we where doing and deal with the file immediately and then it was taken to the next person's desk for them to do the same. We usually dealt with them on the day of receipt if at all humanly possible.

Bill irvine

13:13 PM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Hi April

You're right; it shouldn't take 2/3 years to pursue a complaint of maladminstration to secure compensation for rental losses, but it does.

It's also a scandal; a classic example of "justice delayed ..........justice denied" and something many landlords, on this forum, have been highlighting to MPs, MSPs and Government Ministers, in addition to forums like this, NRLA, Property Tribes, and the media, with little or no success.

See my members' bulletins:

a) DWP guilty of Maladminstration in 100% of cases https://universalcreditadvice.com/news/dwp-guilty-of-maladminstration-in-100-of-cases-but-no-penalties-applied/

b) DWP & ICE failing Private Landlords https://universalcreditadvice.com/articles/dwp-and-independent-case-examiner-both-failing-private-landlords/

I'm old enough to remember those halcyon days, you refer to, when a referral to your local MP (in my case, now Lord George Robertson) could work wonders with both HMRC and DWP (DHSS). Many problems were resolved quickly and without the need to go through tortuous complaint processes, clearly designed to impede and frustrate.

Part of the problem is, DWP doesn't recognise Private Landlords as "clients" or "customers". When creating the UC scheme, it made sure landlords would not have any rights of appeal against refusals to redirect housing costs, where monies were being misused. Its "Complaints Process" doesn't even mention "Landlords". Its complaints form asks for Nat Ins Nos and is clearly designed for claimants.

In contrast, when I'm representing landlords in housing benefit disputes, over direct payments, I can use the Independent Tribunal Service, where landlords are viewed as "persons affected". When complaining, I can write to the Council's Chief Executive. When I do, the complaint is usually acknowledged within 24 hours; is referred to the Head of Benefits and oftentimes results in a "revision" in favour of my clients, avoiding the need for a tribunal or complaint. When pursuing compensation in HB cases, referrals are dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman who invariably concludes their investigation in 3-6 months and are generally supportive of the landlords' position when public monies are misused by tenants!

Bill

April

13:29 PM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 25/02/2021 - 13:13
Goodness. I can hardly believe that MPs have so little clout these days 🙁 But your method of writing to the Council's Chief Executive appears to be worthwhile. I hope this helps Jaye. Perhaps he could try both and report back whether either course of action got him to where he needs to be.

Jaye

16:15 PM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Hi all, thanks for your comments. I only gave you a snippet of summary, I didn’t want to bore you with the numerous engineers that were denied access, costing over £300 callouts because they refused to provide their contact number etc, the wife being an estate agent using all her knowledge to abuse the system, the attempted counter claim for the hot water (that was never broken) in court etc. The DWP refused to inform me if they were claiming for months until I contacted someone in the Scotland region by accident (the director’s office)who cc’d my email to the correct region. They then vaguely informed me of when they paid out, from march – December. I had to use this info in court after the tenant lied and presented a standard misleading DWP letter in court (stating “the UC will continue to pay your landlord rent”). The tenant lied to the judge saying I was paid from June 2020, it was adjourned costing me an extra £500 in legal bills. In short, The tenant planned to pocket UC’s money, wait to get evicted and use the bailiff letter to get a council flat. I’m still waiting for the court order to instruct the bailiffs. It was by chance I called up housing benefit then UC that I got to know they were claiming.

Jaye

16:16 PM, 25th February 2021
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by John Mac at 25/02/2021 - 10:55
Thanks, John, MCOL may not be issued for more than £5,000 unless issued under the Consumer Credit Act. But I’ll need the discount code if you still have one thanks.

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