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Universal Credit - How to assist tenants tackle problem areas and avoid rent arrears!

The rollout of Universal Credit has created problems for both tenants & landlords. One of the biggest causes of rent arrears nowadays is DWP’s poorly administered scheme, with problems arising, from the start of the claim and throughout its duration. Unsurprisingly, many tenants struggle with the process of claiming & maintaining their claims. DWP doesn’t help, because it’s increasingly demanding a range of documentary evidence be  produced to validate the legitimacy of the award, especially, in relation to the “housing costs element”, which, oftentimes, represents more than 50% of the overall UC award. This more intensive approach, causes 20% of new claims to be prematurely cancelled, immediately causing rent arrears – sometimes unnecessarily!

Of concern, is the fact, DWP intends to expand this “Enhanced Review” approach, by recruiting 4000 additional “agency” staff, to carry out 8 million “reviews” of existing awards by 2027. Originally, designed to tackle fraud & overpayments in the system, it’s reach now extends to all types of awards. In the process of doing so, tenants will be required to revalidate their claims, and, based on the experiences so far, are likely to have their claims suspended, cancelled and oftentimes receive a large overpayment demand.

This course is designed to ensure, your staff fully understand the claims & validation process; know best how to assist tenants, respond to these demands, report changes in circumstances, and pursue complaints and “mandatory reconsiderations” to ensure gaps in entitlement and overpayments are avoided, and when disputes & appeals arise, are able to support tenants through the, sometimes, long and complicated process.

We recommend this course for frontline staff, charged with assisting tenants in this challenging environment, to maximise entitlement, minimise & resolve problems and avoid the need for repossession and debt recovery action. This includes staff specialising in welfare rights, financial inclusion and money matters.

Course programme

We will examine the following key components:

* How to ensure an effective claim is made and avoid gaps in entitlement, when claims are rejected as defective in some way.

*How to help the tenant reinstate claims, prematurely ended by DWP mishandling, and secure retrospective awards to reduce or eliminate rent arrears.

* 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 challenge poor decisions, remedy errors quickly, notify changes timeously and effectively.

*Benefit Assessment Periods; payment dates; impact of changes in circumstances that increase/reduce entitlement; role of landlord when “notifying” changes seeking alterations to awards.

* How to deal with changes in circumstances, including earnings, couples separating, tenants affected by temporary absences in hospital, residential care, prison etc.

*How to assist tenants make claims as part of the “Managed Migration” process and ensure they receive their 2-week run-ons and where appropriate “Transitional Payments”.

*How to secure “explicit consent” and assist tenants seek resolutions to problems as they occur; challenge poor decisions on assessment of “housing costs”; question wrongly assessed Third Party deductions; and assist the tenant submit Mandatory Reconsiderations & Appeals, where the tenancy is being put in jeopardy, due to inaccurate adjudication.

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

*Assist the tenant overcome the obstacles, created by DWP, which make the annual April rent increase process, much more complicated and problematic than it needs to be.

*Challenging overpayment demands on behalf of tenants and your landlord organisation. This is becoming a real problem as DWP attempts to recover the £Billions of accrued overpayments.  Universal Credit’s Debt Management is much more aggressive in its pursuit of recovery and generally will not suspend action, pending challenges to the disputed debt.

*How to effectively communicate with DWP and ensure unresolved issues are escalated to its hierarchy.

The Course will start at 10am and finish 3 pm with breaks for tea/coffee & lunch in between.

Who should attend?

This course has been designed for staff working in housing & income management teams, welfare rights, money advice & financial inclusion. It’s 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 reduce the associated costs of recovery action. The trainer will deliver the course using a PP presentation, exercises, and group discussion.

Bill Irvine

Bill spent 30 years in local government, holding senior positions in Social Work, Housing & Finance. He left as Head of Housing Services (Benefits, Revenues & Advice) at one of the UK’s largest councils. In 2012 he set up a new consultancy business “Housing Benefit Advice & Advocacy” offering advice, training, and advocacy to Councils, RSL’s and private landlords throughout the UK.

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 (CIH), National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), individual Housing Associations, Charitable & Voluntary bodies, GB wide.

He now owns and operates publishes regular updating bulletins on Universal Credit to more than 1300 registered subscribers and represents both tenant and landlords at First and Upper-tier tribunals where problems can’t be resolved through meditation/negotiation.