Next Step ICE complaint?

Next Step ICE complaint?

10:10 AM, 19th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago 19

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A tenant moved into a flat in August 2020. Universal Credit set up direct payments to Landlord as agreed (also requested by tenant as history with gambling etc).

It transpires in April UC asked the tenant for a copy of the tenancy agreement as evidence of tenancy etc, but he didn’t act. Direct rent payments stopped in late May as a result. I ask the tenant to show UC the TA. Nothing happens, direct payments are still stopped. I contact District Partnership Managers attaching a copy of the TA myself and fill in (two) UC47’s over a period of the month.

I then get an email from UC:
‘I have forwarded your email to the case manager to see if we can backdate the housing costs.
The reason we have been unable to implement the direct payment to you is that despite several attempts, we were unable to get verification of rent from the claimant. We will now need to request backdating. Are you aware of any reasons as to why the claimant was unable to supply verification of his rent, does he have any designated support workers or any additional support with his tenancy?

I explained that there is no reason at all why he hasn’t bothered and clearly as he is getting his other benefits it’s a case of ‘I’m all right Jack’ and tell them to accept the TA as attached. I remind them they agreed to pay me directly from the start (and as written in the TA that direct payment is part of the contract) so they HAVE to pay the backdate (not just request it!) and need to re-establish rent payments going forward again.

Question – is this a matter for an ICE (independent case examiner) complaint now? or is there another level in the DWP I have to address this to first?

Month four no rent and no indication either that they are looking to re-establish direct payments going forward either. As they pay ALL his housing costs they should be liable to pay all the backdates in one payment back to me surely? They agreed to a contract to pay me on behalf of their client direct, and they are the ones that have failed irrespective of what their client did or didn’t do – after all it was part of the reason why the direct payment was agreed in the first place – to ensure the landlord was paid and tenancy secured because he was ‘a high risk’! AUGH!

DSR



Comments

by Sue Marven

10:53 AM, 19th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

I feel your pain. By the time the payment is late you’re already out of pocket.

by Robert Mellors

10:57 AM, 19th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

"I remind them they agreed to pay me directly from the start" Do you have some sort of written agreement with the DWP agreeing to pay you direct any amount of UCHE that the tenant is entitled to? Would this hold up as a contract?

I've never known the DWP to agree anything like this prior to a tenancy commencing, there is usually just a right TO REQUEST direct payments (what the UC call a "managed payment" or "alternative payment arrangement"), if particular circumstances exist, e.g. 2+ months rent arrears. The request is made via the UC47 form (now via an online application), but these are often ignored or refused (with no definite reasons given).

If UC team are ignoring the UC47 then next step is perhaps to make a formal complaint tot he district manager, and when this is ignored, you may be able to proceed with a complaint to ICE. Ask Mick Roberts for advice on this, he has gone through this process several times and has cases lodged with ICE at the moment. (However, expect to wait around 2 YEARS for ICE to deal with your complaint).

If you have a rent guarantor for the tenant, it may be far quicker and easier to claim from them.

by Ron H-W

11:15 AM, 19th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

Perhaps you should also ask them whether they have a deliberate policy of not notifying landlord of such requests - maybe this policy is in expectation of tenant sometimes being lazy or incapacitated, and therefore with a view to getting payments delayed and/or not made?

Also, in the light of this experience, how can they justify expecting you (and people who read about this case) EVER to take on tenants who are in receipt of UC?

I know one should not discriminate, but officials like these would appear to be forcing such discrimination to occur!

by Mike

11:30 AM, 19th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

and then they have the cheek to question why most landlords don't take on housing benefit tenants.
Most importantly, if they do award any tenant any housing benefit , whether or not the tenant was entitled to receive that payment, i.e. through changes in circumstances, which the tenant did not report, then the losses should be theirs and not ours, that is why many landlords are reluctant to take on any HB tenants.

Perhaps Shelter can force Government to change in their policy on clawback so that more HB tenants can find private rented accommodation more easily without fear of landlords having to pay back any rent that the tenant was not entitled to. .

by Mick Roberts

7:08 AM, 20th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

UC generally ask tenant for copy of tenancy as rent proof which I've got the hierarchy to admit a 20 year old tenancy showing peanuts rent prove's nothing, yet they still asking tenant for it. And they should be asking Landlord, he's the only one that will tell u the truth.

They are disgusting & what u say is what we have been having over the last 4 years. Someone please send this Shelter. They are proper thick aren't they wondering why the tenant doesn't do it. The fail safe is Ask the Landlord just as HB has learn't over 25+ years.

And yes, I get sick of requesting for backdating, when UC can clearly see it is their mistakes that has resulted in not being paid.

Always start a complaint, not that it's doing any good at the moment, but one day the tide may turn.
Bill Irvine of https://universalcreditadvice.com/ knows the process, but ,most of it has to come from the tenant AAAAAHhhhhhhh.......

Ha ha I see Rob has mentioned me, here is my latest dealings with ICE below.
Ron H & Mike says it all.

Here's another I've had this week, if people want to tell Shelter, MP's, Govt, why we not taking Benefit tenants on.
When u get no rent in or problem, u complain to DWP who we know don't reply, even though at last count, they was spending £200,000 pm on Complaints.

When they don't reply u go to Independant Case Examiner whose address ends with DWP.gov.uk by the way. No conflict of interest there is there.

ICE say we can't answer your complaint Mick as we need DWP to reply first. How stupid is that? However, we have out get our of Jail card, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman PHSO. They just under the GOVT or on top who knows, but they will resolve this debacle. And below is their reply which explains to u Benefit tenants why u cannot get accommodation any more.
U wait two years with no rent in for the complaint to get ICE & u get nothing at the end.

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your recent email and we are Sorry to hear you are still having difficulty in getting a response to your concerns from ICE to enable you to bring the matter to ourselves.

Unfortunately, we are unable to act until ICE have provided their response.

The best and most effective way to affect change within the DWP may be to ask that your MP raise the matter.

We are sorry we are unable to assist you at this time and hope you get a response from ICE which resolves your concerns, if not we would be happy to progress your Complaint once you have received the response from ICE.

Regards
XXXXXX
Intake Caseworker
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
T: 0345 015 4033
E: phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk
W: http://www.ombudsman.org.uk

by Mick Roberts

7:12 AM, 20th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

This is/was the UC complaints process up to a few months ago. A lot of us are giving up though as UC just aren't replying, as they know:
No reply, no investigation.

These are words from Bill Irvine of https://universalcreditadvice.com/ who knows UC inside out:

Nowadays, we try and make the 1st Stage Complaint via the online complaints system https://makeacomplaint.dwp.gov.uk/ which usually produces a quick acknowledgement if not response. Where we already know the tenant's Work Coach or Case Manager we will write to them instead. Dealing with staff close to the everyday action can often produce a quick & positive result.
The COVID crisis has forced DWP to redeploy staff from everyday duties, like "complaints & resolutions" to claim processing, so timescales for responses may vary significantly. If the case is really urgent, escalate straight to the 2nd stage email (correspondence@dwp.gov.uk) and ask them to forward,as a matter of urgency to appropriate manager.

by Bill irvine

8:32 AM, 20th July 2021, About 2 weeks ago

DSR

Yes, you could pursue with ICE but only after you’ve completed DWP’s two stage complaints process, evidenced with stage 2 outcome letter.

Your case is different to most I deal with, where payment of the HCE is repeatedly received and misused by delinquent tenants. ICE’s view of this is, the landlord is NOT entitled to compensation even where it concludes DWP has been guilty of maladministration.

In your case, it appears the HCE has been “suspended” due to DWP asking for verification and insisting this must be provided by the tenants. This insistence is misplaced as both the UC regulations and guidance permits contact with the landlord to secure this. Councils do the same when administering Housing Benefit.

So, having provided the TA to the Partnership Manager, DWP has all the verification they need to “revise” the decision to suspend and reinstate the HCE.

Councils and Housing Associations have access to a UC portal and can now verify, for example, annual rent increases, when their tenant fails to do so. Consequently, there can be no justification refusing to accept your confirmation of the TA.

Bill

by DSR

9:31 AM, 29th July 2021, About 3 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 20/07/2021 - 08:32
Thanks Bill. I will ping another email off to the Partnership Manager in light of your comments as I have since had an email stating that they are now passing to the backdating department.

Is there any caveats they can put on the backdate now even though it is a simple case of tenant showing the TA? Are they obliged to pay out the whole lot of rent arrears in one payment or are they going to in some way argue that it has to be paid in instalments? The rent is exactly the LHA, so I have had nothing for three months at all.

by Bill irvine

10:16 AM, 29th July 2021, About 3 days ago

Hi DSR

"Backdating" is a term used in new claims where the claimant requests payment prior to the date of their actual claim. In your case, that's not relevant.

Your tenant is already receiving UC but missing his "housing costs element" because he failed to validate this. Normally DWP will give the tenant up to 1 month to supply the information and if they don't payment is withheld. If the tenant can justify not providing the requested information timeously, DWP should pay going back to the date it was withheld or suspended. If the Decision Maker refuses to do that it's your tenant who must challenge this. Unlike Housing Benefit, landlords don't have any appeal rights in this situation.

Assuming the Decision Maker agrees to make the retrospective revision, any arrears due should be paid to you. If they don't pay you, then you should complain to ICE that your tenant's rent arrears and potential threat of eviction is partially caused by DWP failing to act on the information you forwarded (TA).

The situation you're experiencing is on the increase as DWP is now instructing its staff to review claims where evidence of the "housing costs" were not asked for because DWP was operating a policy of "Trust & Protect" as part of its COVID relaxations. T & P meant they simply accepted what tenants told them, including in cases of illegal sublets, where, in some cases, the legal tenant and their illegal sub-let tenant received payment of "housing costs" without any need for validation. How crazy is That?

Unsurprisingly, overpayments in 2020/21 increased to £6 BILLION representing 14% of what was being paid out. Shocking figures but DWP's Director General defended his department's decision by stating T & P was appropriate during COVID and those who perpetrated overpayments/fraud could expect a tap on the shoulder. They could have avoided much of this if they had just asked landlords to confirm their tenants' names, continued residence and rent charge.

So, look out from overpayment demands from DWP's Debt Recovery teams, because they've already started the process of reviewing & revising such claims. They're also pursuing the recipient of the HCE on the basis "they could reasonably have known an overpayment was occurring". Every one I've challenged on behalf of clients has been successful. I've just submitted 3 appeals on behalf of one client totalling £33K.

Bill

by Mick Roberts

11:17 AM, 29th July 2021, About 3 days ago

Reply to the comment left by DSR at 29/07/2021 - 09:31DSR,
I don't want to be bearer of bad news, but I & my tenants have had all backdating requests declined so far. Even one where they can see their own phone records advised the tenant wrongly to not claim UC.
I may have had one get a bit but u wun't believe it, already in 2k arrears, I believe UC paid him the backdating.
I'm doing a Mandatory Reconsideration on one of them as advised by Bill.

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