Lack of access to APAs forcing UC landlords to serve notice

Lack of access to APAs forcing UC landlords to serve notice

8:54 AM, 4th February 2021, About 6 months ago 3

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Caridon Landlord Solutions, which provides specialist advice on Universal Credit and Housing Benefit to private landlords, letting agencies and housing associations, says that landlords with tenants in receipt of Universal Credit are struggling to set up Alternative Payment Arrangements because the online Universal Credit landlord portal is closed to new claimants.  It is thought this is because the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) is overwhelmed by the number of new claims, but landlords say it is forcing them to consider serving notice on their tenants.

Last year, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an online landlord portal system to allow social rented sector landlords to verify rent and submit managed payment requests online, rather than by email.  This meant if a tenant was having difficulty meeting their rent payments, the landlord could request to set up an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA), meaning the housing element of the tenant’s Universal Credit payment would be paid directly to the landlord.  Many tenants find this an easier way to help them budget.

However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people claiming Universal Credit across the UK has risen from 2.9 million in February 2020 to 5.9 in January 2021. Many of these people will be tenants who previously signed up to private tenancies based on their income at the time, but due to COVID-19 are now facing changes to their employment status and finding that Universal Credit simply does not cover their rent.

Sherrelle Collman, Managing Director of Caridon Landlord Solutions, says: “It is an extremely difficult situation. The pressure that DWP must be under due to the rise in claimants is enormous, but when tenants are struggling to meet their rent payments, we know that APAs not only have a significant impact on limiting arrears, they also help to sustain the tenancy. The Government wants landlords to support tenants, but there has to be a middle ground.

“The landlords we are speaking to say they are going back and forth on the phone, only to be told they will be called back by a case manager, then hearing nothing. We’ve seen a 20 per cent uplift in landlords wanting our assistance to set up APAs, and all were at the point where they were considering serving notice to their tenants because they had no other choice.”

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, who is also inundated with calls from desperate landlords says:

“Universal Credit faces heavy criticism from landlords and tenants at the best of times.  If landlords are now confronted with yet another barrier to access direct payments, it is inevitable that many more landlords will be encouraged to serve notice on those tenants in receipt of Universal Credit, which goes against the Government’s intensions.
Clearly the Government needs to provide more resource to facilitate the onboarding and management of the Universal Credit system so that landlords and tenants can work together.  Many landlords with tenants who have suddenly had to start claiming Universal Credit are aware that their tenants cannot meet previous rental payments, but if a portion of it is allocated to the landlord then that provides a temporary solution for both parties, helping to sustain the tenancy for longer.”

Contact Sherrelle for offline Universal Credit advice

Sherrelle is an independent consultant and is recommended by Property118 for landlords who require professional advice and assistance in regards to dealing with Universal credit related matters


Comments

by Colin McNulty

14:20 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

4 months in to a new tenancy I still haven't received any UC for my tenant, despite logging 2 APA applications (formerly UC47) via the portal.

UC finally called me to arrange setting up the payment last week, apparently at the request of the tenant. But the guy I spoke to said neither of the 2 APA application had made it to the case, which was why he was calling me to ask for the information that he was missing.

Anyway, he told me that he was setting up payment to come directly to myself.

However this morning I'm informed by the tenant's case worker that his pay that's coming out tomorrow, will be going directly to the tenant! Marvellous.

So now I'm off to visit the tenant to try to get their agreement that he'll pay the rent, and will likely have to chase him tomorrow too.

Last time this happened with another tenant, they'd already spent half the month's rent, by noon the day they'd received it!

by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

20:03 PM, 8th February 2021, About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Colin McNulty at 08/02/2021 - 14:20
Dear Colin,
This seems to be the common theme of late, either the online APA does not reach the case manager or is just not set up in time.
I hope you manage to get it sorted.
Please keep us updated!

by DSR

13:50 PM, 9th February 2021, About 6 months ago

In light of the current situation then where the DWP are not receiving/deleting/losing/ignoring APA requests after they have signed the TA and moved in, should be not be making it clear at the point of Application that if a UC tenant is offered a TA, then this is part of the requirement - not an option? Could it not be argued that as this request would only serve to act as a 'guarantee' of rent payment, therefore akin to the same status that a private tenant through the use of a guarantor would have? In other words we would be treating ANY UC tenant application in the same way as a private tenant - the basis of direct rent payment is expected and all agreements will be to that effect ? Unless the tenant agrees to this from the outset (and informs UC of this directly and can show evidence that this has been agreed by UC) , then a contract could not be legally offered?


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