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

This course focuses on Universal Credit from both tenant & landlord perspective. Many tenants struggle with the process of claiming & maintaining their Universal Credit claims, including the housing costs element. DWP is increasingly demanding, in seeking evidence 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.

Since COVID restrictions were lifted, DWP has been applying an “Enhanced Review” approach, designed to tackle fraud & overpayments in the system. In 2021/22 overpayments amounted to £6.5 Billion (14% of UC’s overall spend). In the process of doing so, tenants are required to effectively revalidate their claims, and often fail one or more of the tests posed. When that happens, awards are suspended or cancelled. Unless handled properly, this, in turn creates gaps in entitlement, invariably leading to rent arrears and, if not addressed, repossession action.

Understanding the claims & payment process; knowing how best to assist tenants, maintain their online claim and report changes in circumstances, via journal, can greatly help avoid delays, suspensions, cancellations, payment problems, disputes & appeals, all of which help to minimise the potential for rent arrears accruing. This course has been specifically developed 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.

Universal Credit - Tackling areas of scheme causing rent arrears!

The course 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 incompetence, 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 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 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 2010 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 & Volunatary 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 Fist and Upper-tier tribunals where problems can’t be resolved through negotiation.