3rd October, 2020
It’s great to receive feedback from clients, especially when it confirms how its staff have been using material in our regular bulletins to assist tenants overcome problems with Universal Credit and DWP’s administration. In earlier bulletins I’ve referred to the all too regular issue that arises when couples split, leaving the partner to assume liability for the full contractual rent.
Home Group’ s Support staff wrote to me last week, stating:
My team have been using your helpful information, inclusing templates, in relation to untidy tenancies. However, today we have been informed (verbally) that the DWP have had a change of policy, due to potential overpayment concerns, meaning, they now require confirmation from the landlord, in writing, regarding untidy tenancies. They are adding a link for the customer to attach a letter from the landlord to state that the customer is solely liable for the rent. I am concerned about landlord’s ability to supply such a letter, as it is clearly contrary to the true legal position.
Do you have any knowledge of this, so called, change in policy and how we should tackle this?
I’m not aware of any change in policy or practice relating to this topic, other than the guidance issued by DWP some months ago, which I’ve copied below.
“Absent Joint Tenant” cases (Untidy tenancies)
On 23 June 2020, a new ‘Record a change in joint tenancy costs’ To-do was introduced to UC Full Service, which ensures cases are automatically correctly paid each month without the need for manual payments or continued claimant intervention.
New guidance has been issued to Work Coaches and Case Managers to make them aware of the changes. The new To-do allows agents to record how many tenants live in the property and the amount of rent/service charge the claimant pays. This ensures that both absent joint tenant (i.e. Untidy Tenancy) or unequal apportionment of rent (1/3rd to 2/third share, based on no of rooms used by JT), within a housing costs support claim, are paid correctly.
A claimant can report this in their journal or phone. If the claimant declares new housing costs, they will need to inform us again of their circumstances. The claimant will get a journal message to tell them this.
As part of the new guidance explaining the operational process for the new ‘to-do’, Work Coaches and Case Managers are reminded that they must NOT:
- ask the claimant to re-declare housing costs as a single tenancy, unless there is a genuine change of circumstances.
- make a housing declaration on behalf of the claimant that it is a single tenancy.
- ask the claimant to get a new tenancy from their landlord or a landlord letter to confirm the claimant is solely liable.
Whenever housing costs are re-verified following a change, the new To-do is completed to ensure that the correct level of housing support continues to be paid. These changes will ensure that the problems that claimants and landlords have experienced with UC claims in Joint Tenant cases cease. “
As you can see, the change is designed to ensure that when there’s an absent joint tenant, the remaining JT is paid at the correct rate, without all the palaver that previously applied. DWP also makes clear to its staff, that they should not be demanding, letters from landlords which effectively misrepresent the true position.
Home Group’s reply
“Following your helpful advice, we have resolved the absent joint tenant issue with Hastings Service Centre, they have updated the client’s account and issued a backdated payment. They have also confirmed that poor/inaccurate advice was given by the client manager.”
Congratulations to Home Group’s staff for their efforts. Hopefully, with this new guidance in circulation, and the introduction of the “To-do”, tenants will no longer need to repeatedly contact DWP to secure the correct monthly award, from one payment system, not two, as used to happen.
I will endeavour to keep you updated as changes occur. Meantime, I can be contacted on 07733 080 389 or firstname.lastname@example.org
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd