9th March, 2021
Rather disappointedly, DWP has failed, for the 8th successive year, to fulfil previous commitments of delivering a “bulk upload” solution for Universal Credit reliant tenants of Social Landlords and continues to place the onus squarely on the shoulders of tenants to report any rent changes via their online journal.
Contrastingly, Housing Benefit tenants are not affected by this exercise, as any changes made to their rent, should continue being reported through the long-established council arrangements, which allow Housing Benefit to be updated, without tenant input.
I am aware that not all councils and housing associations are increasing rents this year. Ordinarily, this would have excused their tenants from having to participate, as there would be no need to report anything (i.e. no change in circumstances) but, DWP is taking a different approach this year, by asking all tenants to “Confirm your housing costs” via their online journal, in the first week of April. So, even though these tenants’ rent charges remain the same, they will still need to record the value of their 2021/22 rent figure and, where appropriate, service charges.
Apparently, this new approach has already been tested and approved by landlords, who have seemingly endorsed DWP’s view, that this revised version, has simplified the “To-do” process and improved the overall effect. DWP has developed a helpful pictorial view of the Q & A’s.
For those tenants who pay monthly, the “To-do” should appear in their journal on 1st April and will set a deadline date. In all other cases (weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly payers) they should find the request, in their journal on 5th April.
Clearly, it’s in every tenant’s interests to respond as quickly as possible, to ensure payment of the new rate is awarded in the first Benefit Assessment Period. It would be timely now to remind each tenant of DWP’s expectations and the importance of compliance.
A welcome piece of good news is, DWP have agreed, that if your tenant fails to report, within 14 days of their Benefit Assessment Period ending, you are to receive your own “To-do” via the Landlord Portal, enabling you to report the rent & service charge figures, thus avoiding the possibility of your most vulnerable tenants losing out, as they have in previous years.
The above move represents a major shift in DWP policy & practice, because, as you’ll recall from earlier bulletins, covering past exercises, it has previously resisted my argument, that Landlords are not only able to report changes in circumstances, in this way, but are actually obliged to do so, by UC legislation, where there is a material change and an APA is in payment.
Another new feature, relates to situations where you have a managed payment (MPTL) set up for your claimant and you receive an incorrect amount, following the Annual Rent updating exercise. In these circumstances, you will be able to report this mistake to Universal Credit via the landlord portal and this, in turn, should correct future payments.
I hope this note helps your understanding of the process and allows sufficient time to brief the tenants affected. Any questions, email bill@ucadvice or phone 07733 080 389.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd