Bill Irvine

Registered with
Wednesday 7th August 2013

Latest Comments

Total Number of Property118 Comments: 26

Bill Irvine

20:43 PM, 4th December 2018
About 2 months ago

Backdated Housing Benefit decision over 4 years ago!

Hi Robert
As an experienced landlord, providing accommodation to benefit reliant tenants you should never be surprised by Council decisions, although, I have to say, yours is a bit unusual, given your tenant vacated in 2015 when presumably payment to you ceased.
Clearly, it looks like HB has continued to be paid to your ex tenant until a decision was taken recently to cancel retrospectively. The retrospective effect also suggests an overpayment has occurred. But, as he's no longer your tenant, and HB stopped in 2015, you shouldn't lose sleep.
Going back nearly 5 years is not a common thing, but neither is it unique. If a tenant claims HB they, on completion, make a statement that the information provided is accurate and that they'll notify the council of any changes material to their claim, which includes changes to income, capital, household make-up, new address etc.If they fail to comply with that obligation they'll be expected to pay back any overpayment which may arise. Where payment is made to the landlord, under one or more of the "safeguarding" provisions, they also become similarly obligated to notify the council of any factor, they could reasonably have known, might affect the award of HB. In their case, the tenant's temporary (in prison, hospital, residential home etc) or continued absence from the address is something that should be reported. Again, failure to report could result in the landlord being equally held culpable.
I dealt with a case three years ago, where the council, one of the London Boroughs, revised a decision, going back 18 years, creating a £76.6K overpayment with a demand that it should be paid in 7 days. I represented the tenant, whose landlord was her two sons. The Council knew of their relationship but decided, because she couldn't produce a copy of her original AST and evidence of rent payments, through a bank account, direct to her sons, the tenancy was non-commercial and contrived to abuse the HB scheme. The Council initially reduced her overpayment by £66K after a few emails from me and later a First-tier Judge chased the Council for the other £11K.
I regularly read comments on landlord blogs, as to the alleged threat, posed by receiving LHA direct. Much of what is claimed is untrue and in those cases where councils do pursue recovery from landlords, appeals invariably succeed.
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Bill Irvine

21:08 PM, 19th May 2018
About 9 months ago

UC email to Landlords is causing THOUSANDS to be HOMELESS!

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 19/05/2018 - 17:13

Many of the frontline staff haven’t sufficient knowledge and are being poorly trained & supported, so many of the decisions they make are simply wrong and need to be challenged.

How you challenge is also important. Regrettably, there is no right to independent appeal, in APA request disputes, so complaining is the only route available.

I’d be happy to examine what’s happened in your cases. I’d be particularly interested in any cases, refused after 11th April as DWP suggest the Work-coach can trigger payment to the landlord after the Claimant Commitment interview without the need for an APA.

Either email or phone me and we can have a discussion, at the very least.

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Bill Irvine

16:58 PM, 19th May 2018
About 9 months ago

UC email to Landlords is causing THOUSANDS to be HOMELESS!

Reply to the comment left by David Price at 19/05/2018 - 15:37
Hi David

If you’re already receiving LHA paid direct to you, in most, if not all of these cases, why are you issuing section 21s en masse?

The fact that your area goes Full Service on 31st May, doesn’t mean all your cases migrate to UC at that time. Some may remain on LHA for another 2/3 years, so where’s the sense in issuing notice to a tenant, already having their LHA paid to you, when it might be completely unnecessary?

Also, for those that do immediately migrate, if, at that point LHA is paid direct, then DWP from 11th April 2018 can redirect payment of UC, without the need for an APA! Again, if UC was paid direct, as proposed, issuing section 21s appears premature and unnecessary?

For many landlords, invested in LHA/UC accommodation, it’s not easy, for a variety of reasons, to overnight, switch from benefit dependent tenants to working tenants. Adopting your proposed strategy could help repossess their properties, but could also potentially create lengthy void periods with no rental income and mortgage defaults.

I fully understand your frustration at what’s happened so far, but if you’re hoping serving section 21s is going to greatly influence DWP I believe you’re mistaken.

Few, if any, landlords would want to create unnecessary homelessness, especially where the tenants have previously proved themselves good and reliable. Many of these tenants, given the choice, would prefer if the housing element came to you, as this removes the threat of repossession. Why should they be deprived of their tenancy for faults caused by a seriously incompetent DWP administration?

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Bill Irvine

10:36 AM, 19th May 2018
About 9 months ago

UC email to Landlords is causing THOUSANDS to be HOMELESS!

Hi Mick

Least we all forget, Universal Credit was first introduced in Ashton-under-Lynne 4 years ago when, at that time, the plan was to pay tenants in 90%+ of cases. We now have landlords receiving 60-70% of their tenant’s UC awards paid direct through the APA process. Not all APA requests are refused. Some are awarded almost immediately.

In recent months DWP has withdrawn the 7 day “waiting period”; abolished the need for “explicit consent”; from 11th April 2018 agreed to pay PRS landlords direct, where at the point of transition to UC, the landlord was receiving LHA direct; plus pay two further weeks LHA at the point of transition at the full LHA rate, even where the tenant has earnings and/or income above their Applicable amount.

All of these developments are positive and came about through the efforts of landlords and organisations like the RLA making representations to DWP and Ministers of State. So, complaining and rattling sabres, does have an effect, although sometimes maybe not as quick as we’d like.

I started making representations for my client landlords in 2014/15. Initially, most of those complaints were successful, and included cases where DWP made “special payments” or compensation for rental loss. But, as I suspected, as the numbers of such cases increased, DWP hierarchy intervened by ruling out compensation, even though, in most cases they accepted the rental loss was due to maladministration. DWP was also of the view, landlords had no right to complain as the UC award related to the claimant, not the landlord.

Ever since, I’ve been pursuing the rights of my clients to complain and seek compensation. In August 2015 I secured written agreement from DWP that landlords do have rights to complain. DWP hierarchy, including its Director General, agreed, that the “housing costs element” should be suspended, where an APA request had been made, pending a decision on the merits of the application. Having secured that commitment, I fully expected a sea change in the way APA requests were dealt with and a substantial reduction in the losses experienced by landlords. However, my optimism was quickly dashed when DWP simply reneged on its promise, claiming the UC regulations provided no facility to suspend, even though its own Guidance to Decision Makers suggested otherwise.

Some of you may recall my exchange with Neil Couling, DWP’s Director General which was published on Property118 Following that exchange, we’ve continued to bombard DWP with individual complaints. Some are resolved reasonably quickly, whereas, others take for ever and are very frustrating to all concerned, including some of DWP’s own Complaints & Resolution staff. Believe me, some of them were just as frustrated as the landlord complainants, when tenants month-on-month were paid and misused their “housing element”.

A number of these cases led to 3rd stage referrals to ICE (Independent Case Examiner) and helped bring about the withdrawal of “explicit consent” in December 2017. DWP has also started the rollout of its “landlord portal” which, at present is limited to councils and large housing associations. In time, I expect PRS landlords will also gain access.

So, whilst I fully sympathise and agree with many of your comments, they’re not new. Neither are your suggestions novel, in any way. Since UC’s introduction we’ve argued for an LHA safeguarding approach being adopted, with rights of appeal and a responsive complaints process, which recognises landlords have rights.

We have made progress, for example, landlords can be paid by schedule once multiple APAs are in place. I expect we’ll continue to make inroads re our objectives, especially, if more landlords, start earnestly challenging DWP decisions and taking them to task, through its complaints process, even with its flaws.

It takes months to progress to ICE stage, but past reports from ICE suggest a very high success rate (50% of complaints wholly supported) so I plan to continue assisting landlords doing just that.

For landlords like you, committed to this niche market, I would recommend you either find the time to educate yourself and spend more time being hands-on with Universal Credit or secure yourself professional assistance, otherwise you'll experience further financial pain as the Full Service rollout expandsin area and claimant numbers over the next 4 years.

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Bill Irvine

7:45 AM, 17th May 2018
About 9 months ago

UC email to Landlords is causing THOUSANDS to be HOMELESS!

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 16/05/2018 - 22:57
DWP currently don't recognise PRS landlords as customers, even when they're pursuing APA requests, using a scheme designed by DWP to ensure landlords can secure redirection of the "housing costs" where tenants are either vulnerable or have misused public funds.

That's why it's important Landlords pursue complaints through the published "Complaints Process" and where that doesn't work, revert to (Director General of UC) and, at stage 3, the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) when the internal process doesn't produce the desired outcome.

Those landlords that have already pursued complaints helped to produce beneficial changes, like, the withdrawal of "explicit consent" on 20th December 2017 i.e. tenants can no longer prevent redirection as their consent is no longer required. It shouldn't have been in the first instance!

DWP should also be suspending payment of the "housing costs" when an APA application is received. Its Director general agreed to that in August 2015 but has since reneged on that promise. Suspending the housing costs element would prevent the current misuse, which is costing landlords a fortune in lost rental income.

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