As you may already have gathered, the first stage of the Universal Credit, rent updating exercise, has not gone as well as hoped. I discovered this when several of my clients started emailing and phoning on Tuesday, having received, in some cases, 200+ demands for verification via their portals in one day.

Prompted by DWP’s Frequently asked Questions (FAQS) advice:

“All changes need to be made once they have happened (i.e. after the rent has changed in April). If social landlords have not already done so, it would be helpful if they could remind their tenants of the information, they need to report to their UC account and the date of this change.”

Most SRS landlords notified their tenants of the importance of reporting the change timeously. Many tenants followed this advice, by notifying DWP, from 2nd April 2019, as they had been advised to, by making use of the online journal “change of circumstances” link, designed for that very purpose.

But doing so, was treated by DWP as a “standard change of housing costs” creating, in turn, the request for verification in ALL cases. DWP maintains tenants should ONLY have reported the change in rent level, following receipt of a 3rd April 2019 “To-do” request, and had tenants followed this course of action, DWP would have applied a tolerance level and thus avoided the need for landlord verification.

I’ve been advised the tolerance involves:

  1. An increase, less than or equal to £4.62 per week (£20 per month) for England and £6 per week (£26 per month) for the rest of the United Kingdom; or
  2. A decrease of equivalent to 50 per cent of the claimants current verified housing costs, it will be accepted automatically.

In those cases where, the rent increase or reduction falls outside the scope of the tolerances, DWP will request validation. This will also apply, if the notified change represented a “wider change in circumstances” than simply rent.

DWP has admitted that not all of its promised “To-dos” arrived by 3rd April and could take “a number of days to issue these to all claimants”. Why, is not so clear, because if you read its FAQS it suggests the “To-dos” would arrive “immediately”.

As you’ll have gathered from my earlier bulletin, I fundamentally disagree with the way DWP has handled this issue. Surely, in 2019, fully 5 years after Universal Credit’s introduction, we should expect more from DWP?

Let’s hope the next stage of Landlord notification via the Portal actually works, and that we have a fully automated and legally competent arrangement in place for April 2020.

Bill Irvine
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd