17th July, 2019
My recent bulletin “Notifying DWP of a change in your tenants’ rental charge” has produced a response from DWP management.
One of my Housing Association clients, wrote to their Partnership Manager, attaching a spreadsheet, with details of tenants who had failed to respond to DWP’s April 2019 “journal” prompt, regarding the change to their rental charge, and had subsequently rebuffed offers of assistance from their own Housing Officers, in this regard.
The Partnership Manager promptly responded, refusing to accept the Association’s request and spreadsheet, claiming to do so would be at odds with “National Policy”. Not knowing how best to respond, I was asked to assist. The following is an adapted version of my email.
Dear Partnership Manager
As you’ll have gathered, Anytown HA recently sought my advice, regarding several of their tenants, who have yet to notify DWP of the rental increase in April 2019. I recommended they should write to you, firstly, identifying each of the tenants affected and providing details of the new rental charge. They followed my advice, but you’ve since responded stating, it’s not DWP “policy” to accept, nor act on notifications from landlords, in this respect. Instead, you insist on the tenants notifying you, despite my clients explaining, the tenants in question have not responded to their own staffs’ offers of help. As things stand, each month that passes their respective “housing costs” award is incorrect.
In your response, you refer the Association to DWP guidance on the topic. Coincidentally, I responded to this recently, producing a bulletin for my website members. Its content is self-explanatory. Suffice to say, DWP’s advice is flawed on a number of levels, causing tenants to lose out, often unnecessarily, due to the failure of DWP to deliver a suitable “rent updating” fix, 6 years after UC was first introduced, while, at the same time, current HB recipients, continue to have their new rent levels automatically updated by Council tried & tested solutions.
Requests for Revision or Supersession are made, every day of the week, by Welfare Rights officers, CAB, solicitors, Guardians, Appointees etc. all seeking to assist their respective clients secure the correct amount of benefit. I draft numerous requests, on behalf of my landlord clients (Private and Social Sector). DWP routinely acts on these requests, by revising and superseding claims, and frequently acts on information, provided by anonymous sources, to create overpayments and pursue actions for benefits fraud.
In this case, the landlord is simply asking the Secretary of State, on behalf of these vulnerable tenants, to revise their award to reflect the correct amount of rental charge. DWP’s refusal to do so, is for no other reason, than it involves additional work and costs for the department, even though what you’re doing is clearly illegal.
DWP’s “Advice to Decision Maker’s Guide” at paragraphs A4017/18 explain, that where one or more of the conditions for “supersession” is satisfied, the Decision Maker should admit a communication as an application for supersession. A change of circumstances, like a new rent charge, is one of those conditions. At paragraph A1451 it clearly explains, how a landlord receiving “housing costs” on behalf of a tenant is “legally obliged” to report a change that could affect – 2.“amount of benefit awarded”.
Consequently, DWP is acting “ultra vires” by refusing to act on such landlord requests, required by law Regulation 38 UC Claims & Payments, 2013. A refusal to “supersede” in these circumstances gives rise to Mandatory Reconsideration and subsequent Appeal rights. Furthermore, a landlord failing to comply, could be held culpable for any arising overpayments, even though they’d be caused by DWP “official error”.
So, I must ask you again, to use the information provided to supersede each of the identified Association tenants’ accounts to reflect the correct “housing costs element”, effective from the 1st BAP in which the change occurred. Given your earlier failed commitments, with regards to the portal solution and seriously flawed advice, that’s the most reasonable course of action. Alternatively, issue a decision to each tenant, copying the Association as their tenants’ representative.
If you do so, I will assist each tenant appeal, and allow an Independent First-tier Tribunal to adjudicate on the merits of the application.
If any other landlord has embarked on a similar course of action and needs further information or clarification, please get in touch.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd