4th January, 2021
A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you.
One of the questions I’m most asked about is – can DWP award UC before the date of actual claim?
The answer is – YES – but, only in limited and prescribed situations. One such situation is, when a tenant, claiming Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance (LHA), moves adress to a new council district, resulting in Housing Benefit/LHA eligibility ending, prompting in turn a claim for UC, to secure help with the Housing Costs Element (HCE) at the very least.
Ms X is 57 and transferred from one PRS tenancy to another, but, in a different local authority area. When she moved she claimed Housing Benefit (LHA) on 2nd June 2020 as she had been doing at the previous address. The new Council dithered in determining her claim for nearly 6 weeks, only to advise her on 15th July 2020 she no longer had any eligibility to HB and needed to claim Universal Credit. She did so on 17th July and was awarded UC from that date. A request for a backdate to the date of the move was subsequently refused. Following this, a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) was submitted, seeking a “backdate” of the UC award for a 1 month period. The MR proved successful.
In this particualr situation Regulation 26(3)(aa) of the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SI No 1230) applies. It makes provision for – ‘Where a claim for universal credit is made by a person who was previously entitled to an existing benefit’ the date of claim can be extended (or backdated) for up to a maximum of 1 month, prior to the actual date of claim. Regulation 2(1) defines ‘existing benefit’ to include working tax credit and housing benefit. In this case, my client was claiming Housing Benefit.
Caselaw – Upper-tier decision of Judge Edward Jacobs UPPER TRIBUNAL CASE NO: CUC/0148/2020
Paragraph 8 of that decision is very helpful, as it explains how the regulation should be applied. It states:
“The key question, in my submission, is whether the administration of the appellant’s housing benefit allows the time for claiming universal credit to be extended by way of regulation 26(3)(aa). ………………………………………………………….. In my submission, the function of regulation 26(3)(aa) is to provide relief for claimants who have only belatedly discovered that the benefit they have been receiving has been replaced by universal credit, and therefore have been left unable to satisfy the usual requirement that a claim for universal claim be made on the very day that one wishes to claim from (regulation 26(1)). ………………………. I submit that, for the purposes of regulation 26(3)(aa), the ‘notification of expiry of entitlement’ to housing benefit should be taken to be the letter from Preston County Council that spelled out that the old mechanism for re-establishing entitlement to housing benefit in a new borough by way of a new claim to the new council was no longer available (and hence a claim for universal credit had to be made instead). This notification was sent after the claimant’s last day of entitlement to housing benefit (see page 63). I submit, therefore, that regulation 26(3)(aa) is satisfied.”
Cases of this nature occur, on an all too regular basis and in most cases, requests for backdating are simply refused by DWP. It’s staff seemingly have been advised, the tenant should either have known about this or should have asked for advice. Whereas, when tenants make the move to the new district, most simply apply for Housing Benefit on the mistaken belief his/her previous entitlement to HB/LHA will simply continue. There’s also no question, Councils, due to COVID, staff working from home etc. now take much longer to process HB/LHA claims, causing this type of situation to arise. Regrettably, in most cases, these belated claims for UC cause financial loss to the tenant and, invariably, wholly avoidable rent arrears.
What can you do?
If one of your tenants delays submitting their UC claim, due to this mistaken belief, encourage them to seek a revision of the refusal to backdate, via their online journal. What they’re looking for is, their date of claim to be extended by up to 1 month, before their actual date of claim & award. Support such a request with a copy of the letter from the new council, confirming the delayed determination and perhaps an extract from this bulletin, including the extract from the Upper-tier judgement.
Together, this should explain to the Decision Maker why your tenant is making a request for a “revision” of the original award date. It’s also important to note, requests for “revisions” can be made up to 1 year after the original date, so it may still be possible to help tenants that have previously lost out in this way by securing a further month’s award to offset any rent arrears!
If any of your tenants have encountered such a problem and you feel you need a bit of advice or reassurance on how to proceed, speak to your in-house Welfare Rights or Financial Inclusion officer, or, if you don’t have one, drop me a note or give me a call firstname.lastname@example.org or 07733 080 389 and I’ll try and assist.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd