30th April, 2014
After a bit of a lull on the welfare reform front, DWP has just issued two new important documents.
The first is really a refreshed version of its document “Universal Credit & Rented Housing – FAQs” which it first published a few months ago. The revised version is better as it includes a number of new links to various parts of the DWP website which will be updated on a regular basis. Something your staff will find invaluable as the roll-out is extended. In this regard, the document provides an updated timetable of the roll-out, explaining that UC is being extended to couples from June 2014 in some of the Pathfinder a “live claim” areas and will be rolled-out in the North West of England later in the year.
The second document is new. It takes the form of an Excel spreadsheet and provides a form for applying for “Landlord Managed Payments and rent arrears deductions”. The landlord applicant would complete to have Housing Costs redirected on the grounds of the tenant’s vulnerability and/or delinquency (past record of non-payment) and would, at the same time, apply for deductions to clear off the accrued arrears. I’m sure you’re aware, DWP has, in the past couple of weeks, written to various stakeholders, seeking their views on whether these deductions should be raised to as much as 40% of the claimant’s personal or standard allowance, whereas, at the minute, “Third Party Deductions” are usually restricted to 3 x £3.65 (5% of the current personal allowance) to cover rent arrears, council tax debt, fines, fuel deductions etc. with an overall limit of 25% applying.
I would recommend your staff familiarise themselves with each of these documents.
In the meantime, we’re still patiently waiting for DWP to publish its associated LMP guidance on what it means by the term “vulnerable” and how & when applications will be made to seek redirection, in advance of the first payment of Universal Credit. However, you could worse than examine the Local Housing Allowance Guidance . This has been developed for the private sector landlord, since 2008 when the default position was “pay the tenant”. It includes a couple of sections explaining the purpose & process of “safeguarding” (redirection of LHA to landlord) which I reckon will prove to be very similar to what happens, particularly in the longer term, with Landlord Managed Payments (LMPs). The one big difference is the loss of appeal rights for both tenant and landlord under LMPs which is a serious set-back, as we’re left with the position of DWP writing the guidance, adjudcating on requests, with no right to an independent appeal if the aplication is refused. Lodging an appeal, at the minute, tends to force the LAs to reverse their decision and pay LHA to the landlord. The reinstatement of the right of appeal in the UC appellate structure is something you should be lobbying for as the alternative – being dependent on the DWP getting it right, is unthinkable!
If you require any further information on this or any other part of the welfare reforms, please contact me email@example.com. If you’d like to become a member of our website (only £240 or £360 per annum) which includes access to relevant legislation DWP guidance, UT decisions, UC calculator & budgeting tool, a “discussion forum” and regular bulletins, like this, please contact me or firstname.lastname@example.org.