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Managing rent collection and arrears in a COVID environment!

This course focuses on how, operating under COVID restrictions; constant DWP policy & operational changes; associated short-time working & redundancies affecting tenants’ finances; the combined effects of these factors, is placing increased pressure on household finances. In turn, SRS tenants are struggling to fulfil their rental obligations. SRS landlords have had, in general, a very good track record of managing arrears, but even the most successful of these organisations, now acknowledge, keeping a lid on rent arrears is becoming more difficult.

For some tenants, that have never before claimed benefits, the process is causing difficulty, especially when they’re asked to validate information. Many Housing & Income Management staff are operating from home, so are unable to have the same level of contact with tenants in their area. Similarly, DWP has moved to an arms-length delivery, using temporary IT and telephony arrangements, which have oftentimes caused considerable communication issues, for both tenants and SRS staff in their attempts to offer assistance.

A combination of all of these factors has made the process of claiming, making claimant commitments, and validating evidence to support the claim, increasingly difficult. This can often lead to claims being rejected, at the initial stage or being deemed defective, because of the tenant’s failure to respond to “To-do’s” or produce validating information. Invariably, in the past, when tenants failed to meet DWP’s expectations, SRS staff were available and ready to intervene, with a view to resolving the issue and keeping rent arrears to a minimum. Staff operating from home and being unable to meet with tenants in their homes or the office have found the last 9 months very frustrating in this respect.

Understanding the claims & payment process; knowing how best to assist tenants, maintain their online claim, via journal, can greatly help to avoid delays, payment issues and disputes, that would otherwise lead to debt accruing. This course has been specifically developed to assist frontline staff assist their tenants during these challenging times.

The session will be delivered via Zoom or Microsoft teams if that’s your preference, in a 3 hour session, from 10-1pm 1ith a 20 minuts comfort break. Ideally, we would like to restrict delegate numbers to 10-12 per session, to allow maximum delegate participation.

Course Programme

Key components:

* How to ensure an effective claim and avoid gaps in entitlement, which arise in 20% of UC cases, following claims being rejected as defective in some way. DWP has a habit of simply cancelling which is wrong and very harsh on tenants.

* How to ensure the tenant’s Standard Allowance & Housing Costs element are correctly assessed and how, acting as scribe, on behalf of your tenant, you can use the online journal to query, challenge & remedy poor decisions quickly.

*Benefit Assessment Periods; payment dates; impact of changes in circumstances that increase/reduce entitlement; role of landord to “notify” changes seeking an amendment or “supersession” to the award.

* How to avoid unnecessary or wrongly inflated non-dependent deductions; deal with “untidy tenancies”; report changes in circumstances, including couples separating, tenants affected by temporary absences in prison, hospital, residential care etc. to avoid gaps and overpayments.

*How to secure “explicit consent”, assist tenants seek “revisions” and secure retrospective awards; challenge inflated Third Party deductions; and assist your tenant submit Mandatory Reconsiderations & Appeals, where the tenancy is being put in jeopardy, by innaccurate decisions, causing wholly unnecessary rent arrears.

*Alternative Payment Arrangements; how to satisfy Tier 1 factors; Dealing with portal & payment system issues.

*Pursuing DWP complaints when APAs are cancelled without justification, causing the HCE to be misused, creating avoidable rent arrears.

*In 2018/19 DWP recorded £1.75 Billion in overpayments; these dbets are now being pursued, often wrongly via the landlord; how best to challenge these unreasonable demands.

*Q & A – permitting delegates to raise cases and issues causing concern.

The course will be delivered via Zoom, in two segments with a 20 minute break. Sessions normally run from 10am-11.30; coffe break; 11.50-1pm ENDS

Attendants

This course will be available from April 2021.

It has been designed for staff working in housing & income management teams, welfare rights, money advice & financial inclusion, and is intended to underline the increasing importance of Universal Credit’s “housing costs element”, in relation to your tenants’ ability to meet their rent liability and the organisations ambitions to maximise rental revenue, minimise rent arrears and the associated costs of recovery action.

The trainer will deliver the course using a PP presentation, exercises, and group discussion. To maximise participation, sessions will be limited to 10-12 delegates.

Participants will be expected to download Zoom’s App, use a suitable PC or laptop with effective internet access. Participants will receive an email link, a few days before the start of the course, to allow access to the event, and after the event will be provided with a copy of the PP presentation that includes helpful links to other advice, guidance and videos.

Tutor - Bill Irvine

Bill spent 30 years in local government, holding senior positions in Social Work, Housing & Finance. He retired as Head of Housing Services (Benefits, Revenues & Advice) at one of the UK’s largest councils. In 2008 he became a Board Member of Trust HA Ltd and the SFHA and the following year set up a new consultancy business “Housing Benefit Advice & Advocacy” offering advice, training and advocacy to RSL’s and private landlords throughout the UK.

In January 2010 he was invited to provide written and oral evidence to the DWP Local Housing Allowance Inquiry, Westminster, with some of his recommendations being adopted as “best practice”. He now represents RSL’s, Private Landlords, and their tenants before First and Upper-tier HB tribunals, with some of his cases becoming new “caselaw”.

Since January 2012 he has been at the forefront of Universal Credit training for both SRS and Private Sector landlords, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Residential Landlords Association, individual Housing Associations and Charitible bodies, UK wide.

He now owns and operates www.universalcreditadvice.com.  And publishes regular updating bulletins on Universal Credit to more than 1300 registered subscribers