I was asked to intervene yesterday, in yet another DWP Overpayment of Universal Credit demand, where DWP had decided to pursue my landlord client, on the basis:

“As the tenant’s landlord, you received the monthly housing costs, on his behalf, and so could reasonably have known of the tenant’s change in circumstances”.

The tenant, in this particular case, had vacated his property, without notifying either the landlord or the DWP. This, despite promising to notify both his landlord as a condition of his tenancy agreement and DWP as a condition of making his claim for Universal Credit. Therefore, he had an obligation to notify each of the parties, he had moved away on a permanent basis. His failure to do so, makes him culpable, just as it would have under Housing Benefit rules.

I would encourage you to challenge any such demands as, over the past couple of years, everyone we’ve questioned and pursued as a Mandatory Reconsideration have been successful.

If you have no experience of Mandatory Reconsiderations and/or appeals and need help to challenge such demands, particularly where the amount is relatively high, contact us on 07733 080 389 or email bill@ucadvice.co.uk.

In the meantime, you should be aware DWP has, in the past week, stopped Debt Management recovery, in respect of:

  1. Universal Credit
  2. Income Support, ESA (IB), JSA (IB), Tax Credits.
  3. Housing Benefit (LHA)
  4. Social Fund Loans

How does this affect your tenants?

  1. Deductions from Universal Credit and legacy awards, in respect of benefit overpayments, Social Fund loans, Tax Credit debts managed by Debt Management, will all be suspended. This action has already started and will be expanded over the next few weeks
  2. Local Authorities will suspend all new referrals of Housing Benefit overpayments.
  3. The transfer of Tax Credit debt from HMRC has already been suspended.
  4. Recovery of overpayments from estates will temporarily cease.

All debt recovery, already in the hands of DWP’s nominated collection agents, Bailiffs and Sheriff Officers will be suspended forthwith.

The one exception to the rule is “Advance Payments” which will continue to be recovered by direct deduction from the tenant’s Standard Allowances.

DWP has told me these arrangements are purely temporary and will be re-established once things to return to some sense of normality.

A number of SRS and Private Sector landlords have asked if the decision to suspend recovery will have any impact on existing APA payments (i.e. monthly managed payment and/or rent arrears). Much to their relief, it doesn’t; only debts recovered via DWP’s “Debt Management” team are affected.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd