Good morning

My “Untidy Tenancy” bulletin of late February 2020 explains how, when couples separate or tenants, permanently vacate; move into residential care; enter prison (long term) or die, any remaining partners, non-dependent sons, daughters etc. can either be treated as liable for the full rent or can assume liability , in the absence of the “liable person”. Included within the bulletin is a link to DWP’s advice to its staff confirming how to handle such cases.

Despite DWP’s clear guidance and commitment to pay 100%, rather than 50% of the rent, I’m contacted, on an all too regular basis, by clients saying, DWP is not honouring its commitment or its staff seem oblivious to the issue; so only pay 50%, causing unnecessary rent arrears and a potential threat to tenancy sustainment, if the issue is not picked up and remedied.

My clients at PA Housing wrote to me recently (see extract below) explaining what they’ve discovered in their attempts to assist tenants, who find themselves in this situation, and find it’s often difficult to secure an immediate satisfactory result.

Liz Mount, Tenancy Sustainment Team Manager explains:

“Our tenancy sustainment officers have had a lot of success in challenging DWP and securing 100% of the “housing costs element” (HCE) in our untidy tenancy cases. Cases usually arise from a relationship breakdown that leads to the joint tenant/partner leaving the household. The remaining customer (claimant) as a result of our staffs’ involvement, invariably receives a one-off backdated payment of the “housing costs element” for what is owing, and we, naturally, assume the matter is now resolved. However, that’s not necessarily the case!

The trouble begins on the next UC payment date……. we have gone back and forth, a few times, with the DWP on this issue. On each payment date, our UC claimant(s) continue to receive, by mistake, only 50% of the HCE. The claimant then must prompt a manual payment of the remaining 50%, usually by adding a note to their journal or making a call to their “Work Coach” or Account Manager. DWP subsequently comply with the request, usually without question.

From what we’ve gathered from conversations with the Service Centre and Partnership Managers, the issue stems from the fact, the UC IT system cannot automatically accommodate an “untidy tenancy” and pay the 100% entitlement. Often, DWP staffs suggested “solution” involves removing the absent joint tenant or verifying the claimant as being the only tenant on the SRS portal – neither of which are, in our opinion viable options, for obvious reasons.

By exception, there are cases where the 100% is paid, but only because a DWP operative has prompted themselves to make the necessary 50% adjustment, in advance of the next payment date, thus avoiding the need for the claimant to do anything.

DWP’s approach to overcoming the IT problem is explained in a guidance note to its staff. Not exactly a solution, more a workaround!”

PA Housing’s staff maintain this scenario is playing out repeatedly, and but for the involvement of its frontline staff, the remaining tenants or ex non-dependent occupiers, would almost certainly lose out and find themselves accruing rent arrears unnecessarily. The sooner DWP addresses its IT defect, the better for all concerned.

If you’d like any more information on this or any other HB or UC related topics, please email

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd