28th February, 2019
I’ve had some reaction to yesterday’s bulletin, from a number of housing associations who have been advised by DWP that they will not accept notification, until after the change has occurred. So, in the case of a rent charge, effective from 1st April 2019, DWP is maintaining, at least, at local office level, notification would need to be made on 2nd of April or after
That’s simply wrong and needs to be challenged. I’ve also since found out, that Money Advice staff have tried to assist clients report a change within the claimant’s BAP and discovered the system throws up an “error message” because the date of the change is in the future!
I’ve been corresponding with DWP hierarchy on this important issue for the past month and have shared my bulletins with two of its most senior staff in England & Scotland, neither of whom have questioned my explanation of when the change can be notified. Nor would I expect them to, as my advice is based on the UC regulations – not DWP Guidance!
Notifying changes in circumstances is, as you know, an obligation on tenants and, in some cases, landlords too. The rules are specified in the UC (Decisions & Appeals) Regulations
Regulation 23 provides for decisions to be “superseded” when a change of circumstances occur. 23 (1) (b) – “It is expected a relevant change of circumstances will occur”. So, there is clearly no need to wait until after the event as DWP suggest.
Regulations 35 (1) & (4) & 36 (9) provide that the “relevant notification period” means – “in the case of Universal Credit, the assessment period in which the change of circumstances occur” and any change takes effect from the first day of the assessment period and 36 (1) provides that the period of notification can be extended by up to 13 months where the tenant asks for an extension and can provide reasons for not being able to do so within the BAP. The shorter the time lapse between change and report date, the better!
So, the advice these RSLs have received is clearly wrong. For example, take someone who has a BAP covering the 2nd of March to 1st April they would have a window of 24 hours to report the change, within their BAP, whereas, a next door neighbour, with a BAP 30th to 29th would have the full month.
Applying the “whole month approach” which I’ve explained in other bulletins, the tenant’s circumstances on the last day of the BAP, are assumed to have applied from the first day. So, in the Jenna example, the 15th of March would be the applicable date of the increase in award.
DWP was also, until their recent change of heart, insisting on tenants reporting the change via their online journal. Why? Because it suited DWP, just as insisting on an online claim from UC “live” claimants did, when they subsequently migrated to “Full Service”. By placing the onus on tenants and their landlords to report, it substantially reduces intervention from DWP’s staff. But as the system can’t cope with a change notified in accordance with the legislation, DWP has some changes to make – urgently!
Landlords who receive payment of the “housing costs” direct, equally have an obligation to report a change, whether it’s a positive or negative change (e.g. reduction in rent) and can do so by letter, email, spreadsheet etc. DWP appear to have overlooked the obligation of landlords to report material changes and the fact its Landlord Portal was designed to ensure landlords validated tenancy details, including the amount of rent charge. A landlord, receiving payment direct, and failing to report a drop in rent charge, could be held responsible for any overpayment that subsequently occurred.
So, the advice in my bulletin is correct. If DWP says otherwise, ask for a letter of explanation and I’ll happily prepare a response for you.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd
01698 424301 or 07733 080 389