Good morning

In recent weeks, I’ve had a number of website clients, and private landlord posters on, for example, Property Tribes, raising examples of councils not making, the 2 week run-on of Housing Benefit (LHA) even though this should be paid automatically, when a tenant transitions from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit. The rule was introduced on 11th April 2018 and was one of a number of measures intended to ease the financial gap, between the tenant’s last payment of “legacy benefits” and first payment of Universal Credit. Neither the tenant nor their landlord is expected to do anything once the UC claim had been submitted, or that’s how it was intended to operate!.

What should happen is:

a) Following the tenant’s claim for Universal Credit, full service, DWP issue a STOP Notice to the administering council; and

b) On receipt of the Stop Notice, the Council should cancel the existing HB/LHA award, from the day before UC starts, and make a Transitional 2 weeks’ payment, covering the first two weeks of the UC award. The 2 weeks’ award is ignored as income for UC purposes, so is viewed by both tenants and landlords as a potential bonus payment.

Where payment of HB/LHA was being paid to the landlord, at the point of transition, the 2 weeks’ award should be made to the landlord. Whereas, if payment of HB/LHA was being made to the tenant or the move to UC was caused by a change of address, payment should be redirected to the tenant, at their new address, which appears on the STOP Notice.

One of my London based, Private landlords (Caridon Properties) discovered one of the London Boroughs had seemingly no knowledge of the Run-on payment, certainly at Service Centre level, and initially argued, after consulting a Manager, no further payments could be made once HB had been terminated. Caridon, however, employ a number of experienced benefits experts, who provide invaluable support to its tenants, and recognised the Council (or the agents administering the scheme) was completely wrong. So it persisted by making follow-up calls and a formal complaint to the Council concerned. I later supported their efforts by escalating the complaint to the Council’s Chief Executive. Within a day or so of doing so, the Council recognised its mistake and agreed to resolve the case. To its credit, it also went to the bother of reminding all its HB staff (and those of the Agency) on the importance of ensuring these critically important payments were not overlooked, moving forward.

I initially thought this was a one-off mistake, but since then I’ve had a couple of similar enquiries, which suggests, the intended “automatic payments” are not always being applied, causing unnecessary rental loss to both tenant and landlord. In the event, that’s not happening in your area or you feel you’ve got a tenant who missed out in the past year or so, write to your council, seeking a review of that particular tenant’s claim. If the Council has made an “official error” by not making payment, it should remedy this, no matter how long ago this happened.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd