11th November, 2018
Over the past three years, I’ve been pursuing DWP to make compensation payments for some of my landlord clients, where applications for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs), or “Managed Payments” relating to Universal Credit, have been mishandled, due mainly, to the department’s insistence on a failed policy of “Explicit Consent” and surprising unwillingness to suspend payment, pending a decision on the merits of the landlords’ application; a process that’s worked well in relation to Housing Benefit (LHA) for years. The process, approved in HB cases, by Upper-tier Judges, is particularly relevant when there’s clear evidence of tenants misusing earlier payments of the “housing costs element”, which, as we all know, is designed to reduce or extinguish the tenant’s rental liability – nothing else!
Some cases, involving sums in excess of £5000, are currently awaiting investigation by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE). The good news is, 50% of ICE referrals are wholly unsuccessful, with a further 25% partially successful. The bad news is, the waiting time before an investigation starts is currently 18 months and rising, as more disgruntled landlords & claimants, exercise their rights to complain about DWP’s blatant maladministration.
More recently, an issue has arisen whereby APAs agreed during “Live” service “fall-off” in the transition from “Live” to “Full Service”. As tenants move to the “digital” or Full-Service version of UC, they should retain their payment dates; benefit assessment periods; and, importantly, any APA in place, should automatically transfer. Regrettably, in the case of the “Managed Payment”, Full Service staff have to rely on a “manual process” and often overlook the fact an APA is in place, and mistakenly revert payment back to tenants, only for the funds to be misused; putting ther tenancy in jeopardy and landlord significantly out of pocket.
On Friday past, Neil Couling, DWP’s Director General, posted on Twitter, asking me to provide evidence of actual cases to support my accusation that APAs were not being honoured in the tenant’s transition process. As he knows my email and follows me on Twitter he could easily have contacted me privately to secure this information but chose to go public. His motive, and that of two colleagues, who simultaneously “liked” his post, was an attempt to publicly trivialise my claims, suggesting neither the Residential Landlords Association, nor any of “his team” were aware of any problem. You can read the thread here:
At the foot of the thread I include a quote from an email sent to me by one of DWP’s senior officers, which validates my claims – “Yes, this is becoming a bigger problem for customers transferring from Live Service to Full. I need to check with UC Programme but I believe when customers migrate any standing arrangement with paying rent direct to the landlord “falls off”. So, contrary to Mr Couling’s inference, his senior staff not only knew, but accept the “manual process” is indeed “not firt for purpose”; reverting payment back to tenants; subsequenly being misused; causing financial loss to landlords. Exactly, what the APA scheme was designed to avoid!
So, if you’ve experienced any rental losses, due to DWP agreeing “Managed Payments”, only for it to later revert payment to the tenant or their “friend” you should be pursuing compensation. Doing so, on a collective basis, may force DWP to “listen & learn”, hopefully stop this maladministration and the unsustainable losses being experienced by landlords nationally.
You can read more of this topic and what you can do to pursue, in an earlier bulletin
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd