Is the DWP fully complicit in ensuring evictions?

by Readers Question

9:26 AM, 7th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Is the DWP fully complicit in ensuring evictions?

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Is the DWP fully complicit in ensuring evictions?

I sent off a complaint to the DWP regarding them paying the rent direct to a (self declared) vulnerable tenant (drink and drugs, mental health issues, depression, severe medical issues, previous homelessness etc), where even before the tenancy began an MPTL was agreed and put into place.

Unbeknown to me he cancels the claim. I have no notification of this only finding out when the rent isn’t paid. Today I get a response to the complaint stating the following…

Thank you for your recent contact regarding Mr X’s rental payments. I have been asked to look at the issue for you. The reason why you stopped receiving payments for Mr X is due to his actions reporting a new address on the claim which stopped your existing MPTL.
Looking over the claim I can see that Mr X declared he moved into your property at XX on 15/01/20, an MPTL arrangement was requested by yourselves on 15/01/20 and put into place on 20/01/20.

The first assessment period this arrangement affected was assessment period ending 27/01/20 in which payment of XX was made to yourselves. This arrangement continued for the next five assessment period until Assessment period ending 27/05/20 and payment of XX

On 25/06/20 Mr X declared a change of address away from XX to a new address in XX with no housing costs. Due to this address change, any MPTL arrangement that existed for your property would have been cancelled on the date the address change was reported. You should have received and automated notification informing you this had happened.

The other issue is because of the date the change was reported (25/06/20) was partway thought his assessment period any housing payments for the whole period would not be due because on the last day of the assessment period Mr X circumstances were that he had no housing costs. Mr X assessment periods end on 27th of each month. Universal Credit does not make pro-rata’d payments.

Under Universal Credit, the assessment periods are always calculated on the claimant’s circumstances that stand on the last day of the assessment period (i.e. 27th of the month) and therefore if a change to an address happens partway thought an assessment period and there are no housing costs declared at the new address it means the whole assessment period is calculated without any costs being included. It would be for to Mr X to make arrangements to cover any shortfall in his costs to you.

On 21/07/20 Mr X reported another address change back to XX, but because the original MPTL has been stopped and a new request had not been received any housing payments declared were therefore paid direct to the claimant and it would be his responsibility to make sure these payments are passed over to yourselves.

Under the UC processes we would have re-verified the address and rental payments but our system does not alert our case managers to the fact that the claimant previous had a MPTL for the same address, so unless you requested a new MPTL our case manager would have been none the wiser, so we would have needed a new MPTL request from yourselves.

Payment of rent is a contractual obligation between the tenant and the landlord. The landlord is responsible for collecting payment of rent and the tenant is contractually obliged to ensure that their rent is paid.

Until the point an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) is actually in place and both parties have been informed, it remains the claimant’s responsibility to pay their rent and the landlord’s job to collect it.

This applies equally if for any reason, there is insufficient entitlement to UC in any assessment period to meet liability by APA or if for any reason the APA breaks down or is cancelled.

The ultimate responsibility for paying the rent remains with the claimant as part of DWP’s policy to make claimants more financially responsible and the contractual agreement between them and the landlord. This remains the case, irrespective of whether we have agreed to an APA request, and we would expect landlords to collect the rent from the claimant in the usual way.

The landlord has other means of pursuing housing costs and should make the appropriate arrangements to do so.

Should a landlord request an Alternative Payment Arrangement to have the rent paid direct to them, the claimant has the right to challenge any application, and they are normally given seven days to respond and supply evidence, if after this time limit has passed if no evidence has been provided and the APA application meets the required criteria it can be set up. Obviously as in this case if the claimant moves address or declares a new address in the meantime then any existing MPTL would cease on the date the new change of address is declared.

Therefore, checking the claim I find that Universal Credit is not negligent in the way that we have handled Mr X’s rental payments, as the case managers have followed the correct policy and processes and therefore any outstanding rental arrears are the responsibility of Mr X to cover them.
Should a new MPTL be requested and agreed, you can also request that a Third Party deduction be included against the award to collect some of the arrears if Mr X does not or cannot cover them.
—————–

Their response is wrong on so many levels. Key to this is though surely that even BEFORE the situation where a contractual agreement is established the DWP own guidelines state:-
1.1 state that APA’s may be identified at the outset by a work coach.
1.2 goes on to state …In what priority order will they be considered? An APA will be considered in the following order of priority: Paying the Universal Credit housing costs to the landlord will be the first priority where it is part of the Universal Credit award, in order to safeguard the claimant’s home.
Ergo the direct action of the DWP in negligently disregarded its own guidelines in favour of giving a direct rent payment to a known (self-declared!) vulnerable addict, complicity ensured he could not at the barest minimum even safeguard the tenancy.

Is this worth pursuing further? I received NO ‘automated notification’ from the outset or things may have been different. Surely they should have paid the LL in the first instance – the whole APA was established for the benefit of the tenant!

Reluctant Landlord


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Comments

Clint

15:19 PM, 7th September 2020
About 3 months ago

From what I have read I understand, the tenant said he moved out so the rent started to be paid to him and immediately after a few days said he moved into the same address. Is that correct? If so, I have had an almost identical case where a tenant said she moved out to another address and on the same day moved back in to the same property.

In the process, I lost three months rent and although, I took it to my MP, I am still left with a loss of three months rent with the DWP saying that it is up to the tenant to make the payment to the landlord and it was up to me the landlord to take legal action. Sickening!

Michael Holmes

9:23 AM, 8th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Dear Reluctant,

All I take away from this is don’t whatever you do take on UC tenants. Not only are you making a rod for your own back by doing so, but you then become involved with organs of the state. If you haven’t become aware of it by now, then I will lay it out for you. The functionaries operating in this system are not on your side. Hence all the difficulties you have encountered.

moneymanager

14:40 PM, 8th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Clint at 07/09/2020 - 15:19
I'd call it fraud.

MoodyMolls

7:03 AM, 9th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Crafty tenants getting the rent for their drugs and drink. If this catches on many more will start saying they have moved.
Called playing the system.
On the old benefit system, I could prove tenant was still at my property by text messages.
She said she had moved out and they took her word and said it was between me and the tenant.

Clint

7:56 AM, 9th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by moneymanager at 08/09/2020 - 14:40
Worse still, I had already lost 3 months rent after the tenant stopped paying rent when she first moved in although, I had informed DWP of this after the first month and further informed them after the second month, and due to their system and lack of attention, I had lost 3 months at that stage and at present, am losing around 7 months rent with just this one tenant.

Bill irvine

10:08 AM, 10th September 2020
About 3 months ago

Hi

I regret to say I’m seeing similar scenarios being played out GB wide with landlords & agents losing £000’s unnecessarily.

The cause of the problem is the tenant misrepresenting their circumstances, by either lying about having changed their landlord or moved to another address. The ploy works because DWP doesn’t respond as they should.

When a UC tenant moves into a property both DWP and councils rightly ask for evidence of a rent liability. Without this, no housing costs are allowed.

Once HB or UC housing costs have been awarded, tenants have a responsibility to notify the authorities of any change that could affect the level or duration of an award.

So, if a tenant reports they’ve changed landlord/agent, DWP should follow council’s practice of suspending payment of the housing costs, pending further investigation into the tenant’s “new” circumstances. What they shouldn’t do is simply pay the Housing Costs to the tenant.

However, in UC cases, the process which is entirely sensible, is being Completely overlooked. Delinquent tenants have quickly picked up on this, especially after the landlord has just secured an APA. Unhappy that an AP HAS BEEN AGREED, they record on their journal or phone the service centre, suggesting they’ve moved out or have changed landlord. Instead of suspending payment, DWP Simply revert payment back to the tenant, only to be misused.

I have highlighted this issue to DWP’s hierarchy in recent months, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of changes being made to correct the process.

Ironically, the APA scheme was designed to avoid these situations to protect both tenants & landlords. In instances like this, landlords/agents pursuing rent arrears related repossessions, should make abundantly clear to the Court, the cause of the arrears is partly, at least, due to a combination of fraudulent action by the tenant and gross maladministration by DWP.

All it needs is one Judge or Sheriff to realise what’s happening and demand DWP to attend court to explain itself and changes will be made.

Landlords & agents should also be making representations to NRLA, ARLA etc to alert them to the scale of the problem & allow them to lobby for change.

Bill


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