DWP has only recently published its latest newsletter addressed to social & private landlords. You can find it here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletters/february-2019-universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletter

I have extracted some elements, which should be of particular interest and assistance to private landlords, engaged in providing accommodation to tenants, currently relying on LHA, who, at some stage in the next few weeks, months, years, will migrate to Universal Credit.

At paragraph 2.4 “Managed Payment to landlord” it states:

“We expect most Universal Credit claimants will receive the single monthly payment and take responsibility for paying their own household bills on time, including their rent. However, we recognise that some claimants will need extra support in managing this payment. Therefore, in some cases a Managed Payment to landlord might be appropriate.

When can a Managed Payment to a landlord be requested?

“A Managed Payment to a landlord can be made when either:

  • A claimant is in arrears with their rent for an amount equal to, or more than, two months of their rent
  • A claimant has continually underpaid their rent, over a period of time, and they have accrued arrears of an amount equal to or more than one month’s rent
  • any of the other Tier 1 and Tier 2 APA factors apply

Or for private sector tenants:

  • A claimant was previously in receipt of Housing Benefit and it was paid to their private landlord, a Managed payment to landlord can be considered providing the claimant continues to meet the Tier 1 or Tier 2 APA factors

DWP continues – “This is part of the conversation Universal Credit staff will have with the claimant at the start of the claim.” So, tenant Work Coaches and Account Managers should be having discussions with them about their rent liability and commitment to meet their obligations in this respect. In reality, despite being reminded on a number of occasions, many DWP staff have been avoiding this part of their responsibilities, maybe because they don’t feel comfortable dealing with an issue, they have little or no previous experience of.

In contrast, most landlords will have considerable knowledge & experience of trying to secure payments from benefit reliant tenants and may already have tenants on UC Full Service, with payment of the “housing costs element” paid to them direct, after submission of the current process of UC 47 applications, based on the Tier 1 criteria.  

The part of the newsletter highlighted in blue was first introduced in April 2018. It allows payment of the UC “housing costs” to be paid from the first “Benefit Assessment Period” if LHA was being paid direct to the landlord, at the point of the tenant’s migration to Universal Credit and the circumstances that led to this (e.g. rent arrears, mental health, multiple debts, alcoholism, drug addiction etc.) still apply.

Regrettably, DWP Work Coaches and Account Managers haven’t always applied this new rule, despite landlords asking for it. In some cases, DWP’s staff didn’t always appreciate that they had the ability to do so, without the need for an APA (UC 47 form). The rule can and has been applied based on a letter and/or email, although some managers still demand a UC 47 request.

The key to success is making sure the letter or email gets to the right person. Only last week, I emailed the District Manager for Blackpool, on behalf of a landlord client of mine, who had a tenant in the process of migrating to Universal Credit “Full Service”. The landlord was concerned that her tenant would, if given access to the “housing costs element”, simply misuse it and had good grounds for believing so. The tenant already had rent arrears, through misuse of LHA. My email was acknowledged and acted on within 1 day, with DWP agreeing to redirect from the first BAP. I only wish that happened routinely, but it doesn’t.

In some areas, DWP has published the names and email addresses of the key players (including Service Managers, Senior Work Coaches, Account Managers). In others, DWP has seemed reluctant to provide such information, even though much of it is already in the public domain. If you haven’t already secured the contact details, write to DWP’s District or Practice Managers spelling out what you’re looking for and they should provide this.

You can find their contact details here:

District Managers – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-partnership-opportunities-with-jobcentre-plus/jobcentre-plus-district-managers-contacts-for-partnership-opportunities

Partnership Managers https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-partnerships/national-partnership-teams

If there’s still a reluctance to share the information submit a Freedom of Information request to https://www.gov.uk/make-a-freedom-of-information-request/how-to-make-an-foi-request

Lastly, I would encourage any landlord who has lost rental income, through DWP failing to adhere to its APA scheme, to complain using DWP’s 2 stage complaints system. The more landlords complain about, the sometimes chaotic DWP administration, the more likely we’ll secure improvements.

Bill Irvine