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Universal Credit - The real threat to rental income, arrears control and cash-flow issues, explained!


Recent DWP stats show 1.6 million people are claiming Universal Credit. Full Service rollout continues, adding significant more claims every week. Every Jobcentre area in GB is now delivering the “Full Service” version of the scheme.

Housing, Income Management, & Welfare Rights staff are beginning to appreciate, Universal Credit is very different to the Housing Benefit /LHA schemes. In some cases, it is more generous, but, mostly, it’s very much more complex, punitive and problematic. This, is already leading to hikes in RSL rent arrears of between 2 to 6 times previous levels, despite early intervention and robust rent arrears management techniques. In contrast, some associations have been able to limit their losses to 10-20%.

As we predicted, DWP’s administration of the scheme is already posing many problems, mainly due to their own staffs’ lack of understanding of the “housing element”, how it should be assessed and paid. It has also demonstrated a complete lack of empathy, towards tenants and landlords alike. Applications for APAs are often being wrongly determined, or the “housing costs” remain un-suspended during the application process, allowing, in many cases, payment to go straight to tenants, who then misuse the funds. Compensation for rental loss  can be secured by a combination of know-how and persistence. Tenant mandates, designed to permit RSL staff, to advocate on the tenant’s behalf, are generally being rejected, creating major communication problems, associated delays and frustation for frontline staff.

The undernoted Universal Credit course has been specifically tailored for Social Landlord staff. It is designed to examine how the new benefit will operate; and the likely effect this will have on your tenants, your organisation’s collection arrangements, rental income and rent arrears management. It can be delivered in-house for just you and/or in collaboration with your neighbouring councils/associations.


  • When, where and how, Full Service will be introduced;
  • What’s a Migration Notice and how does it affect both legacy and UC claims;
  • How it will be claimed online and how you can greatly assist in that process;
  • How claims will be assessed, with various examples of the calculation methodology
  • How & when it will be paid, including the use of bank and Credit Union accounts;
  • What about backdating; changes in circumstances; the “whole month rule”; complexities relating to couples splitting or combining households; penalties for late reporting?
  • Landlord Managed Payments – How to apply for these via Landlord Portal; challenge suspensions of the “housing element” and pursue rent arrears via “third party deductions”?
  • How the “payment exceptions” provisions can be used to have payments redirected to spouses/partners/appointees to ensure public funds are protected;
  • Conditionality and sanctions – how this is likely to have a considerable impact on your tenant’s willingness to cooperate with APAs, payments and rent arrears recovery arrangements.
  • How to complain when things go wrong; seek compensation, refer to the “Independent Examiner” and PCA.

Throughout the day we will encourage delegate participation. We use practical exercises and case studies, drawn from real situations, arising from the experience of HA landlords in different parts of the UK to highlight the main features of the scheme and where things are likely to go wrong. There will be plenty of time for discussion of issues and concerns. Ultimately, the tutor will aim to ensure delegates are well informed on how to maximise tenant entitlement and reduce the potential for rental income loss.

Who should attend?

Any member of staff involved in housing management, finance, providing advice & support to tenants and those responsible for collecting arrears and complying with Pre-action protocols/requirements.


Bill Irvine was Head of Benefits, Revenues & Advice Services at one of the UK’s largest councils; acted as local government advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster; operated as a welfare rights advocate; tutored on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing in relation to Housing Benefit, Council Tax & Rent Arrears management. He currently operates UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd acting as representative of tenants, Private Landlords and Housing Associations in their respective HB/LHA/UC negotiations with DWP/councils and, rather uniquely, represents them in disputes before First and Upper-tier tribunals. He also writes regular articles on UC/LHA related topics and responds to Landlord’s queries and complaints via various web-based forums, including his own website.
Bill was one of the principal witnesses at the DWP Select Committee, Westminster hearings, relating to Local Housing Allowance in January 2010, where some of his recommendations were adopted as “Good practice” in subsequently produced DWP Guidance.