24th November, 2013
The DWP in one of its latest “UC toolkit” bulletins confirms there will indeed be “Landlord Managed Payments” including the ability to apply to have Universal Credit “housing costs” redirected from day one, or failing this, after 2 months’ rent arrears have been triggered. However, the bulletin doesn’t really tell us anything new and, disappointedly, omits to provide some of the essential detail, landlords have been craving.
For example, the document doesn’t explain who exactly will qualify under the “vulnerable” groups/individuals to have payments redirected from the point of claim or transfer to Universal Credit. It may be the DWP will simply adopt or more likely adapt the LHA “safeguarding” categories (see LHA Guidance Manual link in website) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-guidance-and-good-practice-for-local-authorities this guidance (focus on Chapters 5 -7) identifies the groups and individuals and explains the type of evidence needed to invoke redirection.
DWP also fails to explain, what happens to those tenants who have already been “safeguarded” as vulnerable through the current LHA process. Will the DWP simply accept the earlier decisions of the LA or will the landlord need to make a fresh application, including the necessary evidence? I suspect DWP will employ the latter approach but here again some clarification would be welcomed?
The bulletin does explain there will be a process of having to write to the DWP but doesn’t say anything about where the letter needs to be sent? Will it be to the nearest Jobcentre or one of the remote regional warehouses DWP utilisies? And, if so, what type of timescales will DWP be obliged to operate too? It’s already been reported through “Inside Housing” that in the Ashton-Under-Lyne Pathfinder, RSLs where “whinging” about the lack of DWP response to redirection requests, in only a handful of cases, and the fact rent arrears were quickly mounting. http://www.ucadvice.co.uk/housing-associations/2013/10/social-landlord-whinging-in-pathfinders
Finally, we need to clarify, what happens when the tenant is the subject of a “claimant commitment” sanction (currently involving 2, 4, 13 weeks loss of personal JSA). If the sanction is imposed while redirection of the “housing element” is in operation, and maybe an additional “third party” deduction to clear earlier arrears; will the DWP apply a limit to the level of deductions that can be applied, at any one time, thus undermining the effectiveness of redirection and putting in jeopardy landlords’ rental payments?
Under the current “third party” deduction arrangements, DWP applies a ceiling, limited to no more than 3 deductions of £3.60 per week or 15% of the JSA personal rate. The cap is designed to ensure the claimant is left with enough benefit to sustain themselves and any family for the week/fortnight. I expect there will be something of similar order applied to Universal Credit to “protect” the claimant but this will inevitably further complicate and dilute the “redirection” arrangements.
DWP needs to clarify all of these issues as soon as possible.
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