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The following post is based on an article first published on Bill Irvine’s website. He covers a topic close to the heart of all landlords involved with benefit dependent tenants. The message he promotes is something I can relate to as I’m dealing with landlords every day of the week faced with similar rental loss. Pursuing complaints to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) is something I would encourage you to pursue. If you need any assistance, I’ll happily provide some.
“If you’re a PRS landlord, invested in properties occupied by tenants, reliant on Universal Credit, I’m sure you’re aware of the difficulties currently being experienced by landlords, GB wide, when attempting to secure redirection of the “Housing Element” of Universal Credit, due to tenant rent arrears or their inability or unwillingness, to manage their monthly payments responsibly.
Many thousands of landlords have already submitted Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) requests, using the DWP’s non-secure UC47 application https://directpayment.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/ and, after weeks of waiting and hearing nothing, discover their application has not been effective. In fact, despite their efforts, the housing costs, yet again, are paid to the tenant, even though he/she is already known to have misused the funds in earlier months, prompting the APA.
I receive calls and e-mails from landlords, GB wide, concerned and often exasperated, by the fact, their efforts to secure APAs, have failed. My website “Universal Credit Advice” attracts considerable interest & comment from PRS landlords. The one factor that stands out from the crowd is, repeated complaints of lost rental income, coupled with the difficulties this poses to cash-flow and inability to meet their obligations to lenders. I believe the sheer scale of misuse currently being experienced and total ambivalence of DWP hierarchy to the problem, represents, nothing short of a scandalous situation, something Esther McVey, the latest Secretary of State for Working Pensions would be aghast at and doing her utmost to remedy.
An e-mail received today from one of my exasperated clients prompted this post. In it, DWP acknowledges its second failure to respond to a 2nd stage complaint deadline – “I have been unable to meet my proposed deadline due to the high volumes of Universal Credit complaints I have to handle. In light of this, I hope to provide a response by 13 February 2018. Please accept my apologies for the further delay.”
This 2nd apology and revised commitment, has yet to be fulfilled 2 weeks later. The case was referred to DWP hierarchy on 15th December – fully two months ago and relates to the period July-October 2017. We were able to secure redirection of the housing element going forward but are seeking compensation, due to DWP’s maladministration, which caused the landlord 3 months lost rental income.
None of this is surprising to me or indeed DWP. In fact, we discussed the likelihood of this happening, in some of my earliest exchanges, with DWP management about the expansion of Full Service rollout. You may recall, I wrote via an open letter, to Neil Couling Director General, nearly 1 year ago which provoked a rather patronising and disingenuous reply, implying I was overstating the extent of the problem – scaremongering, in other words, whilst conveniently ignoring my past role as a Government Advisor to the now defunct Housing Benefit standing Committee.
As this problem is now escalating, I’m encouraging landlord clients to follow-up their APA requests, by writing to their Regional Practice Manager (details in link) http://universalcreditadvice.com/ha/2016…-explained seeking an update, if after 10 working days, they haven’t had an acknowledgement. If that fails to produce the desired result, a 1st stage complaint is submitted and, if that doesn’t elicit a response, 15 days later, we recommend a stage 2.
Be aware, DWP hierarchy is unlikely to be in agreement with this proposal, but the current system is clearly “not fit for purpose”, causes serious cash-flow issues, rendering landlords, in some cases, unable to meet their obligations to lenders, and putting some irresponsible tenants, in jeopardy of losing their homes and being exposed to the vagaries of homelessness. The APA scheme, as we all know, was designed to protect the interests of tenants and landlords alike, and prevent all this from happening!
If you’re currently experiencing similar difficulties, follow my advice, prompt DWP to respond to your APA requests, and where that doesn’t happen, in timely manner, pursue, after stage 2, complaints to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) in the hope of securing compensation. The good news is, ICE does appear to be truly “independent” of DWP, as 50% of all complaints referred, produce a wholly satisfactory result, albeit you might have to be patient & persistent to succeed as ICE has a 15 month backlog – classic case of justice delayed ……..justice denied!”
If any Property118 subscriber is interested in pursuing complaints of this nature, I’ll happily represent you.Please complete the contact form below 🙂
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