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A number of our clients have been receiving letters & invoices from DWP Debt Management, demanding repayment of Universal Credit overpayments, sometimes involving large sums.
In one case, the letter stated:
"You were overpaid Universal Credit for the period 2nd November 2017 to 8th January 2018. You now need to repay £1100.30. This is because Mr Jones told us incorrect information in his UC claim".
As the overpayment arose from a clear "misrepresentation" caused by the tenant, to which the landlord, as payee, had no prior knowledge, the overpayment should have been pursued against the tenant, rather than our client.
When I tried to speak to DWP about the overpayment, the first thing I was asked for was the tenant's National Insurance number. I explained I was representing my landlord client (housing association), not the tenant. The Customer Service officer said without the national insurance number of the tenant and their "explicit consent", she couldn't speak to me. Rather than waste time arguing the toss, I drafted a "Mandatory Reconsideration" letter, along the lines of:
"I write to request a Mandatory Reconsideration of your decision. In the event of an overpayment arising, the Decision Maker must consider the cause first. By your own statement, you’ve accepted, Mr Jones, the tenant, gave incorrect information. As such, the overpayment was caused by “misrepresentation” by the tenant, so recovery should be pursued with the tenant, rather than Y Housing Association. If you’re unwilling to review and revise your decision, please provide a written response to this MR so that I may pursue this matter as an appeal, directly with the Tribunal Service."
A couple of weeks later, DWP confirmed it would pursue the tenant for the overpayment by making monthly deductions from their UC award. The rate of recovery in such situations is assessed by applying 15% of the tenant's Standard Personal Allowance, although DWP can reduce this figure if this is considered too punitive.
Be alert to such demands as invariably recovery should be pursued from the tenant, not you. But before doing so, DWP must write and explain what caused the overpayment, the period and amount being recovered, and provide the right to seek more information and submit a Mandatory Reconsideration request. The DWP letters I've seen so far do not provide all the required information, so should be challenged.
In the case of tenants, recovery should also not be automatic, as the decision to recover is supposed to be discretionary based, and take into account any potential hardship, caused by imposing recovery. Furthermore, as DWP is entitled to pursue recovery of overpayments, partially or fully caused by "official error" tenants can ask the Secretary of State (by writing to DWP) to waive recovery and pursue a formal complaint to the Independent Case Examiner. During the period of dispute/complaint, recovery should be suspended.
Private landlords and their tenants, are likely to experience demands of this nature on an all too regular basis. DWP, given its track record to date, is likely to cut corners, by missing out some of the critical information and/or stages in the process. If you're in any doubt as to the "recoverability" of the overpayment, please don't hesitate to contact us for advice. We can be contacted by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 07733 080 389.
If you're interested in findin out more about LHA/Universal Credit and how to challenge Council/DWP poor practice, come along to one of my RLA sessions, details here: https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/courses/landlord_universal_credit_training_course.shtml
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd
Tel: 01698 424301 or 07733 080 389
So ANY LL who receives UC HB element directly will be subject to 'clawback' if the DWP deems there may have been any overpayments for whatever alleged reason.
So 'clawback' is back which is one of the reasons I never allowed direct payment of HB.
With managed payments the LL is now liable to repay the DWP if the tenant gave incorrect information which the LL couldn't know about.
Even more LL will refuse any UC tenant who needs to be on managed payments.
Only a LL with deep pockets could risk 'clawback'
For most LL simply not worth the risk.
So the troubled tenants will suffer even more as LL refuse to risk managed payment of UC.
Nothing has really changed.
The DWP expects the LL to risk all for direct payment of UC like the councils did with LHA.
This is simply unviable for many LL who will increasingly continue to distance themselves from the HB market.
This will cause even more housing costs for councils as few LL will wish to take on the now homeless UC tenant.
When well the idiot Govt realise that just because the LL receives direct payment so as to sustain a tenancy they cannot make the LL liable if it discovered the UC claimant has supplied incorrect information?
LL simply won't take that risk and will decline and evict any UC tenant who pays directly.
There are far better tenants out there that do not pose such risks to LL.
Councils will struggle even more to place their homeless into the PRS which is now shrinking fast due to bonkers Govt policies.
Times will be tough for tenants; they will be even tougher for HB tenants unless the stupid Govt changes its policies on blackmail DWP recovery letters.
Nice one Bill .. You stuck to your guns yet again and won
I urge everyone to consider challenging councils, DWP and all statutory agencies who with their authoritative headed paper and clever wording often give the appearance that they are right . They construct the wording in their letters as if it is gospel . They are so often wrong though . Dont be taken in by it
Different circumstances, but I have this year received £12,000 in back rent in 4 different cases for me personally and my clients. This is only because I pursued and pursued and refused to take their initial decision on face value. They were in the wrong . They paid up but not a hint of an apology. Their arrogance is staggering sometimes
Don`t just roll over . Challenge
Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com
And then they wonder why they are having no takers for their homeless tenants! !
Arrogant councils indeed.
Trying to tap the LL when they know the LL isn't liable.
I only became involved with HB/LHA through attending, as an observer, 3 tribunals in Glasgow, approx 7 years ago. I was there as a Board Member of a HA which had an interest in one of the appeals.
The three cases that day were all overpayment appeals - one by the Housing Association, the other two were PRS landlords. In each case, having listened to the evidence, I was surprised to hear. the Tribunal Judge finding against them. In two of the cases, I offered to challenge the Tribunal's decision and manged to reverse the two decisions. Since then I've dealt with literally hundreds of similar appeals on behalf of landlords, many of whom have been referred by the RLA. Most involve sums of £1000+ and have been as high as £80,000. In the vast majority I operate on a "No win, No fee" basis, charging a commission on any saving I make for my landlord client. It's a very rare event, when I don't raise an invoice for payment.
Why, is that?
In a nutshell, many of the cases should never have been pursued against the landlords in the first instance. But, DWP provides "subsidy incentives" to encourage councils to pursue the "culpable" person(s). In the vast majority of cases, that should be the tenant, but recovery of the debt might take years to recover. Contrastingly, if the council chooses to instead pursue the landlord, recovery is achieved in a fraction of the time and permits the council to collect its subsidy "bonus" much quicker - 40% of the value in most cases!
However, the law provides considerable support for the landlords' position and can be used to good effect when challenging poor decisions. The trick is knowing how best to apply the legislation and caselaw. Some hands-on landlords have achieved success themselves by appealing overpayment demands. Some have used information I've provided on PTs to help persuade councils to back-off. On the other hand, big value overpayments are best dealt with on an individual basis. A detailed submission embracing the facts, legislation & caselaw is the best way to prosecute an appeal. Done well, most usually force the Decision Maker to rethink their position i.e. concede!
DWP overpayments look as if they're going to be even more challenge worthy as the department seems to like to cut corners, as I explained in my original post. So, if the landlord doesn't act swiftly, recovery will be made by either a lump sum whipped from their next schedule payment or by ongoing deductions from their tenant's "housing element" or by a DEA (Direct Earnings Attachment) from the tenant's employer, without the need for a court order (a new procedure). The "Decision" letter is expected to provide the authority and will, if DWP follow the steps in the process correctly. So far, this doesn't appear to be happening. The letters I've seen fall well short of the statutory requirements.
So, if you're a landlord interested in UC get yourself educated (RLA seminar) or secure yourself help to ensure you're able to challenge any premature or unjustified recovery action instigated by DWP.
I hope this explains the situation more clearly. If anyone needs any further info, contact me email@example.com
It is beyond doubt that but for your competence many LL would have suffered greatly
For all the reasons you have ever explained is the reason that I would NEVER accept direct payment of any HB even if managed payments were required .I simply wouldn't retain such tenants.
For many LL the problems with UC so comprehensively explained by you will cause even more LL to desert the UC market.
The UC market has been so comprehensively f####d by the Govt that LL are just giving up for better tenants unless bribed to remain by lots of DHP.
Even if there were 100 Bill Irvine that wouldn't be anywhere near enough to deal with the vastly incompetent DWP.
Unless a LL can be proven to have been complicit in a false UC claim no LL should ever be liable for 'ckawback'
The mere fact these DWP thieves try it on is a disgrace.
The fact that they may 'clawback' from the tenant in sufficient amounts to prevent the tenant servicing existing rent commitments just results in early eviction.
The idiocy of the Govt can be breathtaking at times.
However of one thing you can be assured; you will never suffer any lack of desperate LL seeking your assistance to save them from the robbing DWP
You are a beacon of hope to save some of these LL..
There aren't many beacons like you which is why I predict you will be very; very busy over the coming years with these UC issues.
I know if ever I had a UC tenant and hit problems I would be using your services
Thankfully I have seen no need to go anywhere bear HC tenants and hope NEVER to be involved with any of them.
It's your attitude that's making families homeless, I hope you end up in court and losing your right to rent as you sound like a fucking nasty piece of work.