9:26 AM, 7th September 2020, About 9 months ago 6
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!
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