Universal Credit – Do I really need a new AST?

by Readers Question

14:36 PM, 11th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Universal Credit – Do I really need a new AST?

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Universal Credit – Do I really need a new AST?

I’m looking for advice from my fellow Housing Benefit accepting landlords.contract new

As more tenants are beginning to migrate to Universal Credit (UC) I am finding that I am being asked by the tenant (after being told by DWP) for an up to date/new tenancy agreement in order for their UC claim to be processed.

Previously I have let this go as the individuals were long standing clients looking for top-ups firstly by HB and subsequently via UC.

However the latest client could be politely termed ‘at risk/vulnerable’ (weed/alcohol) but of course does not see herself within this category. Currently her HB is paid direct to me. I am reluctant to issue a new tenancy agreement putting me at risk for the next 6 months whilst the DWP happily put £400 a month into her account. And they will not consider a Managed Payment direct to me until she is 2 months in arrears. The only other option is to get the tenant to provide documentary evidence that they are ‘at risk’ – difficult when they don’t agree.

As I see it, my tenancy agreements are standard ASTs and therefore are periodic rolling tenancies once the initial 6 months is up. Why do I need to issue a new one?

Has anyone experienced this before? Should I just provide an up to date rent statement showing rent due and frequency and a covering letter stating why I will not issue a new tenancy?

(As an aside I’ve found it is very important to obtain National Insurance numbers from tenants if you want to deal with the DWP.)

Thanks,

Dave.



Comments

Mick Roberts

13:02 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

I've had similar in the past. At times I've just wrote new tenancy to keep 'em happy, but like yourself in this occasion, thought why should I do new tenancy with this dodgy tenant.
If you can get someone high enough with common sense, they may realise u don't have to do new tenancy, but as we are all finding out with this UC, we are talking to the straight out of training not a clue youngsters on the phone following what they think is correct rule book.

Kate Mellor

13:35 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Obviously as I'm sure you know, you have a valid tenancy already without issuing a new AST. I would suggest you try getting DWP to accept from the tenant recent bank statements, utility bills, council tax bills in the tenants name at the property address to prove the address is current. Along with your AST this should be sufficient for them. I certainly wouldn't issue a new AST to someone I thought was likely to be a problem tenant if I were you...

Ian Ringrose

14:10 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

I expect that they just want a bit of paper signed by the landlord and the tenant confirming what the rent is etc. Therefore try writing a letter detailing that it is a periodical tenancy, when the tenancy started and what the rent is and attached it to the original tenancy agreement.

Shame the NLA does not have a template for this…..

Kate Mellor

14:17 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Ringrose" at "12/07/2016 - 14:10":

I've heard of this being accepted in the past.

Lyndon Whitehouse

15:42 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

This problem is occurring time after time in Wolverhampton. I sit on the local authority's universal credit working party, where I have been able to raise concerns. I have also raised this concern with the NLA. The long term solution is better staff training for DWP. We have found that the short term answer is that every time you find out that a tenant is moving to UC, issue them with a standard letter explaining a periodic tenancy. Then make refererence to the section in the AST which deals with the periodic term.

David Price

17:13 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Lyndon Whitehouse" at "12/07/2016 - 15:42":

Better still issue a section 21 and get the message across to the DWP that landlords are not going to tolerate payment to the tenant.

Kate Mellor

18:57 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

It may be a good idea to issue a S21 actually, just as a precaution & to focus your tenant's mind on paying you once she receives her UC payment.

I have a few tenants on HB (not UC yet in my area) who have issues with substance abuse & they all have had to go to direct payments through not being physically able to stop spending their rent money on other things. ?

MoodyMolls

20:52 PM, 12th July 2016
About 2 years ago

DWP requested a new tenancy for my tenant as it still had his girlfriend on the current one but she had left 5 years previously.

I wrote a letter refusing to issue a new tenancy as this tenancy was valid, it had took 12 weeks to get to this stage and I informed them it was highly likely I would be issuing a section 21 . If I issued a new tenancy I would not be able to do this.

They accepted the tenancy but refused to back date for the 3 months first they said the tenancy was not in by the time limit. I could prove it was I sent recorded delivery so then they said the tenants other paperwork was not in on time. They are a complete nightmare to deal with .

Kate Mellor

11:21 AM, 13th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "KATHY MILLER" at "12/07/2016 - 20:52":

That is so infuriating Kathy! Can common sense not prevail and a letter from you along with recent utility bills from the tenant to show the utilities in her sole name not have sufficed for goodness sake!

I've recently lost out on a rent increase by several months because HB were so behind actioning it and then because of the type of benefits my tenant received was told it couldn't be back-dated. Despite my notifying them in plenty of time I was the loser...sometimes it's just easier to move on with your life and put these things behind you.

After selling off the housing stock at bargain basement prices you think they'd want to look after the dwindling numbers of private landlords who are prepared to take HB tenants...

David Oswald

9:55 AM, 14th July 2016
About 2 years ago

Thank you all for your comments.
I too believe that the DWP are staffed by inexperienced telephone operators who mainly work to a script. If it doesn't fit into one of their tick boxes they seem to be incapable of providing an answer or solution. After some persistance I managed to get an answer from a 'supervisor' (but not allowed to speak to them directly!!) which amounted to send in what you consider adequate and we will decide upon receipt. Unbelievable.

I sent a covering letter attached to the original AST outlining the rental contract details ie: amount, frequency, start date, periodic or not and any arrears.

I will let you know how I get on.

As background to this ludicrous situation the tenant was advised by staff at the job centre that she should stop claming JSA and instead claim whatever the sickness benefit is now called. She subsequently failed that assessment and was to to reclaim JSA. However, because we are a pilot area she was told she could only start a new claim for UC. Her HB was stopped on July 3rd and the first possible payment she will receive under UC is August 11th straight into her bank including the Housing Element of UC. Needless to say neither of us are happy.

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