UC- DWP maladministration of direct payments to landlords

by Readers Question

10:54 AM, 30th October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

UC- DWP maladministration of direct payments to landlords

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UC- DWP maladministration of direct payments to landlords

To: Mr Chris Stephens MP House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA Date: 26.10.18

Dear Mr Chris Stephens,

Universal Credit – DWP maladministration of direct payments to landlord problems causing financial hardship & homelessness. 

I am in your constituent and in the private rented sector providing housing to numerous individuals and families.  Most of those individual and families are gradually transferred to Universal Credit if they are currently on LHA (Local Housing Allowance).

I am encountering problems with the DWP mis-handling and my tenants UC and was wondering are there anything you can do within your position to make any changes to this.

With some of my existing tenants receiving Housing benefit assistance, I have some tenants who are in some troubled background eg gambling, drugs and alcohol addictions and money management issues to mention a few.  They have their HB Safeguarded to be paid direct to the housing provider from the beginning of the tenancy date to avoid mis-use of the rent money and risking their housing.

The problem I am encountering is I am not informed when an existing tenant is transferring to UC by the HB or UC office nor the tenant. Basically kept in the dark until around 1 month after the HB is stopped by that time the UC office pays the 1st payment of the ‘Housing cost element’ to those tenants bank account.

In factual cases, most tenants spend that rent money and do not transfer it to the housing provider for rent.

This is despite all the tenants informed me when I do find out that during their UC meetings at the Job centre, they repeatedly asked for the Housing cost to be paid to the landlord and were told by the work coach to ‘leave it with them to arrange’ but nothing is ever done to make sure it is safeguarded from the ‘start’ but always after a payment is made to the tenant.

In some cases, if I find out early enough or it is a new tenant, I email the UC office with their APA (alternative payment arrangements) UC47 form some while ‘before’ they actually paid the 1st payment to the tenant.  In all cases when I do find out, the UC47 form is emailed to the UC office.  I never get a response from the DWP to make arrangements.

So far whether the tenant or I request direct payment of the housing cost to the landlord, the DWP pays the tenant the 1st months housing cost and typically hold back on other benefits elements of the UC payment which in effect encourages the tenant more to use that rent money instead of paying it to the housing provider.

One factual example I have is tenant A with a trouble history who was homeless and we agreed to house her and her child through the Rent Deposit Scheme setting up a payment plan for her to pay up her deposit and pay her small amount of rent shortfall £26.24pm.  She struggled and not paid either.  Her HB was safeguarded to be paid to the landlord so in large things are still fine for us to cope with.  But she was transferred to UC without my knowledge and received £479.26.  After pre-informing her of this payment coming and a weeks of requesting that Housing cost for the rent to be paid to us, she transferred £40.00 to us from that rent money and spent the rest.

I had another tenant, tenant B who received £499.95 in July 18 of the UC housing cost for rent and only paid me £200.

Both tenant A & B stated they both requested the housing cost to be paid direct to the landlord from the beginning first payment.  Both stated when they received the 1st payment for the rent, the UC held back other payments which made them short of money with all the cash in rent sitting in their bank account.

In both cases the tenant has not made arrangements to repay that money the DWP paid them back to me to allow me to pay for outlays and operational costs.

Tenant A received a Notice to Quit as a direct result of this final arrears building up as she has not been paying her rent shortfall for some while and had rent arrears building up before this payment was put into her bank account. This is most likely going to lead her to homelessness again.

There are policies and legislation in place to allow the DWP to pay the landlord the housing cost of the UC direct like the APA as well as the Scottish Choice introduced by the SNP.

The problem is despite all those mechanism and the requests of the tenant and the landlord, the DWP still pays the tenant at least the 1st payment of the housing cost causing major problems and that is when both landlord and tenant have requested for this arrangements.

And also in tenant A’s case, the DWP should have carried out basic fact find to find out is the current set up paid direct to the landlord and if so there are normally valid reasons for that to be in place and should not ignore such existing set up and go on to pay a tenant the rent when she is already in trouble of rent arrears and the background of being homeless etc.

The problem is the DWP totally ignore and bypass of of those facts, logic and proceed to credit the tenant the housing cost defying what was in place to safeguard the housing cost for a long time from the beginning of her tenancy.

This is only one case of many.

I have written to the DWP to complain about this already to ask them to improve their administration and handling of the direct payment to landlord from the 1st day and payment of the tenancy onwards in future but was told that they MUST pay the 1st payment to the tenant while I read on all the policies and legislation but can not find any piece that say they can not set up direct payment from the 1st payment to avoid misuse of the rent in numerous cases and can lead to homelessness.

When I query about that, they said this is the policies and legislation to pay the tenant direct the 1st payment and asked me to revert back to you for changes in the future to avoid more people going in to financial hardship.

This issue is affecting more and more individuals and families in the local area and nationally and needs to be addressed.

I would really appreciate if you can give some thoughts to this and give me a feedback as this problem will only exacerbate continue if left.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Kind regards,

Alan



Comments

tony tony

12:40 PM, 30th October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

then they blame the landlord when they get evicted , when infact its the system that is wrong , a system that was thought up by someone that dose not live in the real world

Chris Daniel

9:01 AM, 31st October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

I heard from a member of staff at DWP ( administering U.C. ) that ;
Disclosure authorisation. -
The prior consent landlords used in the terms of a tenancy agreement where the tenant agreed to landlord discussing any benefit claim subsequently made, - has been circumvented by UC rules. When tenant commences UC, they are asked to authorise ( or not - at that point, or later ) whether the claimant consents to release of information to any third party. Thus, at this point when tenant is likely to be in rent arrears [ given that UC / Housing element is paid in arrears as well as the backlog in the system ] there isn't really an incentive for a tenant to authorise disclosure to a landlord.
Direct payment -
DWP review any decision to make direct payment to a landlord, every 3 - 6 months ! - Given that the tenant is still likely to be in arrears ( how are they going to find 2 months worth of rent [ required for direct payment to be made ] whilst on UC ? )
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Government are wondering why so few landlords will consider benefit tenants.
Helloooo, its because of the system you've designed, rent paid in arrears, contrary to Private sector - industry norm and the infrastructure that isn't there to support Both tenants AND Landlords.

Alan Wong

10:42 AM, 31st October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

I wrote to the Dwp UC office stage 1 and 2 of their compliant procedures regarding the issues addressed in the letter above to complain on their maladministration and/or mishandling of the UC housing element 1st payment paid to the tenants.

They keep coming back to try to bluff the complaint off saying they can't accept it, as a complaint the complaint is on the policy and legislation not their service. And keep directing me to complain to the MP. Which I have but that is another point.

But infact the complaint I made is on their service and administration failures not on the policy and legislation.

The UC policy and legislation allows direct payment of the UC housing element direct to the landlord from the 1st payment onwards if circumstances are right eg vulnerable tenants on gambling, alcohol, drug addictions and homelessness etc

The Dwp UC office would like to muddle/confuse things up so they are not held accountable for their wrong doings.

They told me that they 'must' pay the 1st paying of the UC housing element to the tenant direct then the tenant can opt to pay the landlord from the 2nd payment onwards. That is not true. Although the tenant can opt to pay the landlord from the 2nd payment onward through their online journal, it is not true that the Dwp can't pay the landlord from the 1st payment onward.

It is more they twist the policy and legislation and would like to pay the tenant the 1st payment of the rent money due to their badness and twisted mindset to create some chaos for everyone which they have in the examples mentioned in my letter above to the MP. They are doing this as if it is standard practice now totally ignoring the UC Guidance which allows them to set up the APA (alternative payment arrangements) from the 1st payment to the landlord.

UC itself is already a big challenge but the abusive administration and mishandling of the UC payments from the Dwp is another big problem for everyone.

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

12:26 PM, 31st October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Dear Alan,
First and foremost sorry to hear that you have been experiencing issues with Universal Credit.
When a tenant transitions over to Universal Credit if you are in receipt of direct payment the Local Authority should notify you of the change, you also are entitled to a 2 week HB payment which I have discussed in some of my earlier posts.

When you make an request for direct payment it should be assessed on its own merits such as whether the claimant falls into the tier factors, there are no DWP guidance that states that the first payment should be paid direct to the tenant. In some cases the first payment may be paid to the tenant as the APA may not have been set up in time or before the tenants payment date, this is why it is so important for DWP to suspend the Housing Costs as soon as an APA has been received.
DWP are aware of the issues surrounding APAs and are currently looking at ways to improve the service for landlords and are currently testing different options.
I am more than happy to discuss your concerns with the system and any issues that you may have to see whether there are any ways that I can assist you.

john mcghee

12:39 PM, 31st October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

These problems occur for every landlord l know in the Doncaster area. I have a tenant who lost her partner then had her 2 children taken off her because of mental reasons. I applied to DWP stating that l had given her a lot of leeway and asked them to pay the rent allowance straight to me. I worked with her social worker so that things were done properly. Alas, they paid her the rent and she finished up going off the rails and being locked up.
These are occasions when you start to say is it worth it. Still l have applied again, still waiting meantime, she is now over £6000 in arrears but l havent got the heart to put her on the streets.
She wants her kids back but without a home she has no chance.
I must be mad, but l care too much.
I bet l am not the only one.

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

18:02 PM, 31st October 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by john mcghee at 31/10/2018 - 12:39
Dear John,
Please feel free to contact me regarding this case and I will be happy to assist you.

Mick Roberts

9:07 AM, 10th November 2018
About 5 days ago

Exactly the trouble I & my tenants are having.

We ain't being told & the 'rent' just stops. Do they think mortgages grow on trees?

Yes & then they pay the tenants direct. I've said If LHA is paying me direct before, that normally says the tenant is in arrears does it not? So why are u then paying them £1000's in direct rent Housing Element.

Below is pasted from an article I have just put on this morning.

I have Nottingham's big DWP UC man bringing UC into Nottingham coming to see me next week. So I hijacked one of my tenants meetings at job centre this week to get him some more evidence. The staff at Job centre din't want to talk to me to start with. Eventually they relented & put their hands up & said Sorry, we've only had one weeks training & we only get 20 mins with the claimant.
They know NOTHING about Housing whatsoever, yet UC are letting them be the ones responsible for this tenants home.
I had possibly wrongly put tenant 8 weeks in arrears on my/his rent proof letter. Job centre staff HAD TO PUT NO ARREARS down as it wasn't the UC's magic 2 months they require. I said so for the sake of 0.3 of a week, £50, you are now going to make this tenant homeless?
I said look at him, do u want to trust him with some £1,000's that is supposed to be paying for home? He's itching to get that money to go to pub. Tenant agreed, I've told u I don't want the money. Yet u still trying to pay me.
I said to staff, when u saw this arrears was missing the magic 2 months by 0.3 of a week, did u not think of ringing me to play safe? They dumbfounded.
What is the worst case could happen if you pay Landlord direct? Oh yes, Landlord gets paid, tenant don't become homeless. Der.

Local job centre (by this time, I have quite a few staff round including the main manager responsible for implementing UC in there) ARE NOT PUTTING EXPLICIT CONSENT on claimants form. They said we don't know how to do it. So these flyers coming from UC on explicit consent are not filtering down to staff on the ground.
She says tenant can do it online. He's already told u he can't use internet-Where his is Welfare Safety net?
I said u ruddy scan it and put on system. And then u input some details manually.
They said they gonna' be asking their trainers how to do these things. They opened up & said We are really sorry. They had just received one of my complaints emails from UC about them not putting explicit consent on. I said every time u do wrong, I'm complaining & to ICE. Get it right to start with cause dozens of my tenants are gonna' be coming down soon & do u want half of Nottingham homeless?
Little old me who don't work for UC should not be telling Job centres how to implement UC.
Neil Couling & Esther Mcvey has not got a clue what's happening on the ground. And that Alok Sharma who don't even know what the word homeless or hungry means.

We need to be complaining ALL OF US ALL THE TIME, ALL LANDLORDS notes below on how to complain:

•Tenant gives “explicit consent” in person, over the phone or via “online journal”

•Landlord answers 4 specific Q’s, which include:

• the telephone number the claimant has registered with Universal Credit

• tenant’s post code

• the 1st line of tenant’s address

· tenant’s date of birth.

·

Once completed correctly, the landlord or rep can speak directly to the Case Manager by phoning a dedicated line 0800 328 5644

NB – Explicit Consent involves the tenant making a statement along the lines of:

“I hereby authorise my representative - Vivian Wright, Excell Properties Ltd, to represent my interests in relation to Universal Credit. Please ensure Ms Wright is able to converse with you, on any issue that relates to the submission and validation of my claim details. I also authorise you to provide full disclosure to any factor which enables her to determine whether any formal action needs to be taken to correct any omissions or mistakes in my claim or awards. If necessary, you can phone me to confirm this authority, although I believe this to be unnecessary.”

If your tenant has given consent in his/her online journal and you have all the relevant info mentioned above phone 0800 328 5644. If you phone the number without any of these factors having been complied with, you'll be redirected to DWP’s Customer Service Team.

Oct 18 is this Stage one complaints? UCFULL.SERVICE@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK and this one to be safe correspondence@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Stage 2 can use the same email address. Subject Stage 2 complaint.
Here is my first Tier 1 response, I din’t like it.

Oct 18 UC474 APA forms.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-request-for-a-managed-payment-or-rent-arrears-deduction

Email UC 47 form to ucfull.service@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

WE CAN WRITE TO MP AS CAN TENANT

Yes, & they don't acknowledge they've received the UC47 form. A simple email from us to them saying arrears would solve A LOT of homeless.

Yes, they sanction them & only send them the Housing Element HE, so what is tenant gonna do if he has no food, gas electric? Der.. Not rocket science is it.

Your words about sums it all up with what is going wrong & if MP's listened, they'd be on the news less.

Yes Chris, u sum it up perfectly too.
Sherrelle, all DWP has to do is to let us email them saying tenant in arrears. It's a simple as that. LHA made it hard in 2008 to report arrears, then 2012 they allowed simple email & saved thousands more being homeless.
And I can vouch for Sherrelle's knowledge & skills to get the payments direct to yourself. I use her myself, saves headache & time.

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

14:09 PM, 10th November 2018
About 4 days ago

Mick you have made some very valid points, protocols and procedures are not being filtered down to the front line staff.
All DWP front line staff are supposedly recieving training on Housing called Housing First so they understand the Housing Element of UC.
It appears the staff you met at the JC never had that training.
Do you have the name of the work coach and Jobcentre that the incident occurred so I can forward to DWP Hierarchy highlighting your experience and concerns?
For most landlords being a landlord is not a full time job and you shouldn’t really have to take time off work or out of your day to hand hold your tenant at the JC because you don’t trust a system.
As landlords we all need to pull together to ensure the changes we want are rapidly implemented.

Mick Roberts

16:13 PM, 10th November 2018
About 4 days ago

Sherrelle,
I can get work coach's name as it is my tenants permanent one. But I don't want to get her in trouble now as I felt sorry for her in the end, although at beginning, she wanted a fight with me.
It was Bulwell Job Centre Nottingham. But please forward all my log, complaints will be getting it too, as it's with Stage one currently at moment.
Stage one has asked me what I want changed & I've put EVERYTHING as u know also our frustrations, I'd sent her the below:

And I said every claim will be going to ICE until we get these changed:
And u Landlords in this thread, please spread this EVERYONE all your UC Landlords, keep complaining.
The things I want changing are:
Confirmation that you have received our APA UC47 crap rammel form.
Before that, if we have sent a rent proof letter in saying tenant is in arrears, that will be enough. Nothing else should or will be needed. Housing Benefit made these same mistakes when LHA was introduced in 2008 & learned that creating delays asking for unnecessary paperwork causes homelessness, so they stopped asking for rent arrears statements, just a simple letter from Landlord should suffice saying tenant is in arrears. Landlord knows whether tenant is in arrears or not.
WHAT IS THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU PAY LANDLORD DIRECT? Yes, you’ve guessed it, rent gets paid, mortgage gets paid, tenant keeps his home & don’t become homeless.
I want to be able to email this rent arrears proof & get confirmation UC have received it within 24 hours.
I want direct payment to Landlord automatically if Housing Benefit are already paying Landlord direct.
I’ve heard this should be standard procedure, but it’s not happening.
I want u to save our bank details via our other tenants with UC. U say you can’t link them. Wrong answer. HB do it, u can do it.
The UC47 form has no space on for bank details, why not? We’re sending in the tenant is in ruddy arrears, please pay us now, then u wait weeks & then ask for bank details. Are UC nuts?
I want notifying 3 days before UC puts money in our bank, just like HB do. UC puts money in our bank & we han’t got a clue who’s it from, only receiving the letter BY POST a few days later. UC has gone back in technology 20 years.
Why are UC asking for this creditor reference number saying it's on your payslip when we filling the UC47 form in cause we not ruddy being paid, so we have no ruddy payslip.
I want UC to ring me us when claim comes in to confirm the Housing Element is being paid to Landlord (or not).
I want ONE phone number to ring to solve my problems.
I want one email to email queries to get a response within 3 working days.
When tenant goes onto UC from HB, UC should send HB a STOP letter with a date for 2 weeks run on of HB which all the MP’s have been shouting about on the News. This isn’t happening.
I want you to ring us when HB tenant is being switched from HB to UC. WE NEED TO KNOW.
Us Landlords are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in the tenants lives & UC is ignoring us & not listening to us. This needs to change. We can solve a lot of your homelessness.

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

17:20 PM, 11th November 2018
About 3 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 10/11/2018 - 16:13
Hi Mick,
I totally understand that you don’t want to get the work coach in trouble; I will find out whether all the JC in Nots have received Housing First training.
In regards to your complaints I will forward them.
The APA system will be changing in the future which will make the process a lot more efficient and faster than the current system that we are using.

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