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  • LHA/Universal Credit

    DWP refuses to process APAs - £3600 arrears!

    Good morning

    When DWP first introduced Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) it said their purpose was to help tenants with budgeting issues sustain tenancies and protect landlords from any unnecessary rental loss. So, you would think, when a Landlord informed them via their UC 47 pro-forma, one of its tenants has misused £3600 of their “Housing Element” (4 months’ rent) DWP would respond positively to help protect the landlord and the public purse from any further misuse. Not so!

    I’m currently dealing with a large Letting Agent, in the London area, who acts for many landlords and who made an APA application for redirection of the housing element of Universal Credit, in a Full Service area, when its tenant missed two monthly payments of rent. On the face of it, the case should have been an automatic APA award as the 2 months’ rent arrears satisfied the Tier-1 category for redirection.

    Having heard nothing, the landlord submitted another UC47 and then a third & fourth. By that time, 4 months had been missed. The Letting Agent tried phoning DWP on a number of occasions in between, but was rebuffed by DWP staff who believed, they couldn’t speak to them and, in any case, couldn’t process the APA without firstly securing the “consent” from the tenant – yes, the same delinquent tenant who had misused £3600 of public money. Quite incredulous, don’t you think?

    I picked up the baton and wrote to Neil Couling, Director General of Universal Credit believing he, or one of his senior staff would see the absurdity of the situation and immediately act to stop the nonsense. But instead, I received a holding response, stating, amongst other things, DWP couldn’t suspend payment of any future housing element, pending a decision on the redirection request. In other words, they would continue to pay the delinquent tenant the full award of Universal Credit. Even more incredulous!

    Now, this is not the first time I’ve written to Mr Couling, raising exactly the same issues for my RSL & PRS clients. As far back as August 2015 I wrote to him seeking rental compensation for an RSL who had missed out on 3 APAs. At that time, claiming compensation for rental loss, due to DWP maladministration, was a relatively rare request for DWP staff. His fellow Director of Operations (Mike Baker) having secured legal advice, responded by confirming landlords could use the Complaints Process where they were dissatisfied with the progress or outcome of their application. He also confirmed my suggestion, that – Where an APA has been applied for, and a decision cannot be made in time for the next assessment period, the payment of the Housing Cost Element should be suspended pending the APA decision and the remaining UC balance only paid to the claimant.”

    I know, from speaking to many of my clients, the APA scheme is currently “not fit for purpose”, especially where the landlord doesn’t have a secure e-mail address. This particular case shows, staff at the coal-face are receiving confusing or poor advice from DWP hierarchy. To suggest they can’t speak to the landlord or progress the APA, due to the tenant withholding consent simply beggars belief.  Tenant consent is NOT required.

    The UC (Claims & Payments) Regulations, 2013 provide for redirection to a landlord in these circumstances. Already, DWP have 4 APA applications, demonstrating 4 months’ rent outstanding, plus know the tenant has repeatedly misused public funds, and it is acutely aware of earlier commitments made by Operational Directors which are simply not being implemented for fear of breaching Data Protection or “confidentiality, when neither are relevant factors. The landlord doesn’t need to know anything of a confidential nature, he simply wants what he’s due – redirection of the rental payment and fulfilment of the commitment made by DWP to landlords at the outset of Alternative Payment Arrangements – nothing less is acceptable!

    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

    Let’s hope, on this occasion, good sense eventually prevails!

    If you’re interested in this r any other welfare reform topic, please contact me at bill@ucadvice.co.uk or phone 07733 080 389.

    Bill Irvine

    UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd

    http://www.ucadvice.co.uk

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    If even you an acknowledged expert in this field are having let us say issues what chance the rest of the little normal LL!?

    It isn't surprising that LL are refusing to take on HB tenants

    This particular miscreant tenant should have been arrested for theft of public funds meant for his housing costs.

    This won't ever happen which is why these HB miscreants know they can get away with effective fraud.

    Until something is done about these criminal HB tenants then even fewer LL will be prepared to take on HB tenants.

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    Paul

    I fully expect to resolve this case in the landlord's favour, although this won't happen overnight. The main reason for posting is to encourage landlords/agents affected in similar ways, to challenge DWP maladministration of this nature. If they do, in sufficient numbers, and, especially when they attract the support of organisations like the RLA, ARLA etc. they will secure similar success. Follow the advice outlined in my various bulletins; make stage 1 & 2 complaints to DWP and if that doesn't do the trick, make the third stage referral to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) whom, I've discovered, overturns 50% of DWP decisions, so well,worth the effort!  

    The recently announced back-tracking of DWP in respect of Temporary Accommodation, which Sherrelle posted, is evidence of the UC supertanker changing course. Collectively, we need to keep exposing the serious flaws in this work-in-progress called Universal Credit and DWP's management and shockingly poor day-to-day administration - th e worse I've seen in 30+ years!

    Bill Irvine

    UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd

    https://www.ucadvice.co.uk

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    Bill

    I think the issue is many LL lack the confidence of someone so experienced as you.

    Thus they tend to give up at the first hurdle.

    Ultimately they simply can't be bothered with it all when there are other better paying tenants.

    You could describe such LL as lazy.

    Now that may well be.

    But LL can hardly be blamed for wanting an easier life!

    Of course this doesn't assist HB tenants at all.

    But then LL don't owe HB tenants anything.

    They are just part of a tenant demographic that LL have the pick of.

    Currently HB tenants for all the well known reasons are simply not the flavour of the month as far as LL are concerned.

    Even with all your tireless efforts you will have little impact on the problems. Which is a great shame as I believe if Govt took more notice of you a far better process could be devised.

    But to me you are almost a lone voice.

    I am that sad that I watch Parliamentary committee work and I have never seen you in front of the committee MPs giving insightful evidence to assist the committee in their deliberations!

    Consequently more LL will exit the HB market and HB tenants will be the ones that suffer further detriment to their lifestyles

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    I have just evicted a tenant who went on to UC after loosing her job , despite applying to DWP immediately the rent was 2 months in arrears they paid the tenant direct even after numerous correspondence , with a total loss of over 4 months rent before eviction and UC made one month direct payment on the last month before eviction having taken 4 months to get up to speed. I never had this issue with housing benefit. Any suggestions how to go after DWP for their mal administration?

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    But doesn't your experience show the feckless nature of HB tenants

    Your tenant could have passed onto you the rent

    They chose not to

    Which just sums up the feckless nature of these sort of tenants

    It is hardly any surprise that LL are rejecting HB tenants.

    If I was a HB tenant I would pay the rent that I received in full to the LL

    I would then explain to the LL the issues I was having with UC and ask if the LL could lend me £35 PW until the UC situation had been sorted.

    Many LL might say I will lend you £35pw to be repaid when the UC claim is sorted.

    That keeps the tenant in the property etc.

    But of course that means a tenant cannot be feckless.

    Trouble is most of them are!

    So you have little alternative than to evict the feckless tenant.

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    Paul

    Assuming you made your APA request timeously (once 2 Months' arrears) and used the UC 47 pro forma make a stage 1 complaint (details in link posted on PTs). Likelihood they'll acknowledge delay/mistake but refuse compensation. If so, pursue stage 2 (again explained in bulletin). From there, if still unresolved, pursue Independent Case Examiner stage. This is stage it moves into the territory of first "independent" review with high chance of success.

    The more landlords pursue complaints of this nature, the greater the exposure of flawed system and need for redefining or replacement.

    if I can help, at any stage, even if it's only to provide reassurance, please contact me. That applies to any landlord in similar situation. A quick call costs nothing but might help achieve your goal.

    Bill Irvine

    UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd


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    @ Bill

    What an absolute farce!  Disgraceful use of tax payer's money!  Tantamount to fraud on the part of the tenant?

    This is surely going to put more landlords off taking tenants in receipt of UC?

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    While all your admirable suggestions to Paul are eminently sensible and may well result in success, how might Paul be serving his probable mortgage commitment!?

    What if he doesn't have a money tree in his back garden!!

    By the time everything has been sorted it is likely his lender will have repossessed the property.

    Leaving Paul with a destroyed credit rating and permanently damaging his business prospects

    And this is for just one UC problem

    A LL letting to HB tenants in a UC area could face similar issues with all his properties!

    So how would he service say 10 mortgages with no HB coming in because the tenants are using it to fund their lifestyle because of the UC issues!?

    It is no wonder that LL are getting rid of HB tenants!

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    Vanessa

    All the more reason for complaining and kicking up as much dirt as possible.

    If you think back to 2008-10 landlords experienced similar problems. However they complained enough to Ministers, MPs etc DWP was forced to introduce Safeguarging amendments to eradicate most problems. The same WILL happen again if they express their outrage at what's happening and support complaints with case studies. The more the better!

    Bill

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    Bill,

    I applaud your optimism regarding complaining etc.

    Trouble is it will be too late for most LL by then.

    You can hardly blame LL for deserting the HB sector in light of the UC issues.

    They just can't be bothered to hang around waiting for issues to be resolved

    Back in 2008 LL were hostages to fortune in that they needed HB tenants so had to hang on and wait until all matters had been resolved.

    This is not the case today

    So HB tenants can be dispensed with very easily and replaced by better paying tenants


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