UC- DWP maladministration of direct payments to landlords

by Readers Question

10:54 AM, 30th October 2018
About 2 years 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


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Comments

tony tony

19:58 PM, 11th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS at 11/11/2018 - 17:20
thats the problem thou isnt it , it should of been efficent in the first place, alot of these problems is common sense , of which they lack imo

Mick Roberts

6:52 AM, 12th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS at 11/11/2018 - 17:20
That' good then in't it Sherrelle, the APA changing. Not rocket science though is it.
Should be quick phone call from Landlords saying tenant in arrears-Job done.

We should highlight this. We've been telling 'em for years the APA system is terrible, they defend it for years. They now changing it. My point is We told them years ago as we know, we're on the ground using it. So listen to us now when we say something.

Mick Roberts

6:54 AM, 12th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by tony tony at 11/11/2018 - 19:58
Exactly Tony, these MP's & DWP workers have NO COMMON SENSE.
BBC1 tonight 730pm Panorama Universal Credit.

Rob Crawford

16:08 PM, 12th November 2018
About 2 years ago

We are lucky in Bristol. In a recent meeting with BCC we were advised that there are no UC transfer issues in Bristol wards. If this is the case, well done BCC and maybe other Local Authorities can learn from your experience!

Alan Wong

22:20 PM, 12th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS at 31/10/2018 - 12:26
Hi Caridon,

Can you confirm are you an independent company advising for landlords or representing the Dwp UC office?

Just to confirm, for my existing tenants on Lha and with their Lha safeguarded eg paid direct to me already, the Lha office has not wrote to me to inform me of the transition until about 1 month 'after' it happened and in some cases not contacted me at all. This is all questionable as it all appears to be a joint effort between the Hb office and the Dwp UC staffs to evade proper procedures and the end agenda is to pay the tenant the first payment regardless of guidance clearly asking them not to do so. Just pure badness in those group of people.

With regards to the Dwp UC office, I can categorically confirm they totally ignore any teirs to pay the landlord direct and my APA request. They have not responded even once to all my APA requests via the UC47 forms by emails. I have to call them weeks later in every occasion and application as they do not respond, to find out in all occasion they went on to pay the tenant direct despite multiple tiers for them not to. They then would argue and argue they must pay the 1st payment to the tenant and have not done wrong.

And with regards to them put a hold of the housing element, they have not done so during any of the APA applications.

The biggest problem we face is not the roll out of UC, it is not the policies. It is the Dwp UC staffs manipulating the policies to the way they want. And that normally means creating chaos and is clear badness.

tony tony

22:37 PM, 12th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 12/11/2018 - 22:20
alan i couldnt agree more that's is exactly what i have found and it is so frustrating , its all lies what these politicians etc come out with about how the landlord can put in for the uc47 , if they were to implement the form things would be better all round ,better still just pay the landlord the rent from the start of the claim

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

17:09 PM, 13th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alan Wong at 12/11/2018 - 22:20
Caridon Landlord Solution is an independent dedicated service specialising in housing benefit and universal credit advice for private landlord’s, letting agencies and housing associations.
We sit on the Department of Work Pensions Landlord group and have been instrumental in many of the improvements to universal credit system such as, the removal of explicit consent allowing landlord’s to contact DWP call centre to discuss the APA applications. This communication has made it easier for Landlords to offer the tenant support throughout their tenancy and focus on the more vulnerable.
Requesting for calls to DWP’s call centre to be a free phone number and to reduce the length of time that claimants and landlords’ are placed on hold.
The Removal of the 7-day wait as it is putting tenants’ financial hardship and causing them to incur rent arrears at the start of the tenancy.

We believe that front line staff need more training on the Housing Cost side of Universal Credit as their are many inconsistencies in the way that the policies are being interpreted. and keep bring up this point.

Please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss any of the issues that you face.

Mick Roberts

17:28 PM, 13th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Alan, Caridon are the Daddies in getting your claims paid. I use them when I have no time. They charge a small fee I think, in regards to u could have a tenant no rent come in for 6 months £3000. v's their fee which is peanuts compared.
Caridon have contacts better phone numbers etc. that they can get u answers quick & get the rent quickly paid to u. U got to decide how much your time is worth & if indeed u get the rent at all doing it on your own with this abysmal UC system.
I recommend any Landlord hitting obstacles with UC use Caridon till at least they start getting some rent in, or u could go bust. I look upon it as just paying for very experienced UC secretary, so I don't waste hours on UC phones & can use my time to better.
I am doing the odd complaint personally to UC, as I want to play games with them & get the policies changed, but if no money coming in, use Caridon.
Sherelle last year got me approx. 2.5k last year when a tenant just forgot that he had to ask UC for his rent. He wasn't bothered as long as he got his own money.

CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

17:48 PM, 13th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 13/11/2018 - 17:28
Thank you Mick for the positive feedback!

Chris @ Possession Friend

18:31 PM, 13th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS at 13/11/2018 - 17:09
Removal of Explicit Consent ? I spoke with a member of DWP staff recently who told me otherwise, that no prior authorisation by a claimant ( such as on a tenancy agreement - ) would be accepted and the claimant needed to authorise discussion with a Landlord, 'there and then' in the office of DWP. !
( I know about he massive training issues with DWP staff, but the authoritative source of the claimant consent would be useful. )

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