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Good morning, and a happy and prosperous New Year to everyone.
I’m delighted to start the New Year with a piece of good news for those of you who make use of the Alternative Payment Scheme (APA) to secure redirection of the tenant’s “housing costs”. DWP has just confirmed its staff have been instructed “explicit consent” will no longer be required in relation to the progressing of APA requests.
Prior to this, it had been insisting “explicit consent” from the tenant was a requirement before an APA application could be progressed. This, in turn, caused countless thousands of landlords (social & private) to lose many £000’s of rental income, due to the fact, tenants were either delaying or refusing consent and by doing so, many were accessing and misusing their "housing element" (public funds) at the landlords’ expense.
I referred to the scandalous situation in an e-mail exchange with Neil Couling, Director General, which was first reported in Property Tribes. You can find the exchange here: Dear Mr. Couling
With the help of the Residential Landlord Association and Caridon Property Services, we redoubled our efforts to highlight what was happening, hoping this would force DWP to change tack.
We did this by Caridon and myself pursuing many complaints, firstly through the DWP’s “Complaints Process” and more recently, we referred 7 cases to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE). Each case, exposes £000’s in rental loss, despite DWP’s knowledge of what was happening, and are all related to serious flaws in both the APA and complaints processes. RLA meet regularly with DWP and its Directors and Members have been constantly lobbying for a range of changes as the current arrangements are still not fit for purpose.
DWP’s Complaints & Resolution staff, in conversation with our clients have often expressed considerable sympathy to the landlords’ predicament. They recognised the absurdity of the situation, whereas, DWP’s hierarchy simply continued to try and defend its indefensible position. The Game-changer, in my opinion, was the submission of the detailed referrals to ICE, as this is the first truly independent stage in the "Complaints Process" which prompted exchanges with DWP seeking explanations. ICE has a track record of being highly critical of the DWP administration, finding in favour of the complainant in 50% of past referrals.
Following DWP’s revised instructions to staff, we’re now even more confident, ICE will find merit in our argument, DWP is guilty of maladministration, causing landlords wholly avoidable rental loss, and will recommend suitable compensation for landlords, as currently happens with Housing Benefit. We also believe, an ICE recommendation, to this effect, could also force DWP to compensate the many copycat cases that exist, so it’s vitally important landlords continue to pursue complaints through DWP to ICE.
Removing “explicit consent” in relation to APA processing, represents a major success for social & private landlords, as it should ensure future APA requests are processed much quicker and should help to avoid a repeat of the substantial losses we have seen in the past two years. But few, if any landlords, will be aware of the change as DWP has chosen to explain the change in an internal memorandum, rather than a public announcement. We suspect many DWP frontline staff will still be oblivious to the new guidance and may be unintentionally frustrating new APA requests.
So, it’s critically important we share the information with you and your staff and highlight its potential benefits on a range of social media platforms and in the training sessions we offer.
If you wish to read more about the DWP Complaints Process; who to direct your complaints to; and how to prosecute complaints through the various stages; read one of my earlier bulletins http://universalcreditadvice.com/housing...-explained
If you require any further information on this or any other Universal Credit/Welfare Reform topic, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 07733 080 389
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd
Happy New Year to you too Bill,
Thank you so very much for this good news and "all" the effort and details you give us. It is sincerely appreciated and arms us with the details we need to carry on with our work professionally.
Appreciate this Bill
I will not even consider any tenant on UC again,supporting them supports the council, which supports the governments attack on landlords.
Sorry to sound screwed up,but that's how I feel, their problem
My last one is being evicted this on the 21st of this month,with a £5k Debt left behind
I'm sorry to hear of your loss and your decision to refuse to accept any further benefit reliant tenants.
In your note, you refer to the Council. So, was your loss created by the Council's HB administration or did you mean DWP and Universal Credit? In either case, what did you do to minimise your loss?
£5000 is a big loss to sustain and there may yet be ways to recoup, part, at least, of your loss.
Bravo! to Bill and the RLA for this great outcome! Thanks for your unrelenting efforts on behalf of landlords (and tenants).
Vanessa Warwick Landlord and Co-Founder of PropertyTribes.com **If you have got value from Property Tribes, find out how you can support it in remaining a free to use community resource**
On behave of all landlords Bill thank you so far I had one UC tenant which was a nightmare and really put me off. Even with a signed letter from tenant they still refused to speak to me saying anyone could have signed the letter.
Many landlords (social & private) experienced similar problems, mainly due to this insistence on "explicit consent" which, in my opinion, should have little or no role in relation to the "housing costs" element. The purpose of the payment is to ensure the tenant is able to meet his rental liability, avoid rent arrears and the need for repossession action. Regrettably, many tenants have had their tenancies jeopardised partly due to DWP's handling of its own APA scheme.
Those landlords who attended the RLA seminars and who were aware of the problem were, in most cases, able to mitigate and sometimes overcome the problem by having their tenant provide consent in the journal of their online UC account. Many assumed the old mandates and paragraphs included in ASTs would be accepted. Invariably they were ignored.
Now that "explicit consent" has been removed APA applications should be dealt with much quicker, hopefully avoiding a repeat of the previous losses. But there still remains a number of other hurdles to overcome. With the help of the RLA we're actively pursuing these with DWP hierarchy and ICE.
Happy New Year Bill!
Well done on changing this - how obsurd that it required consent in the first place.
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You've nailed our main point. Explicit Consent should never have had any relevance to the Housing Element. I pointed out to the DWP and ICE that the Decision Maker's guide used by DWP staff acknowledged therewas no need for consent of any kind as far as rent arrears was concerned. They did'nt even know!
Well done Bill .
Your perseverance is admirable and we all benefit from the hours of work you put in to right the wrongs
Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com
Many thanks for the kind words but the truth is, the RLA and Caridon also played a major part.