Upad speaks to Caridon Landlord Solutions to find out how Universal Credit works.
A complete overhaul of the UK’s social security system was always going to present challenges for all the key players, including claimants. Back in 2010, when the Government announced its plans to replace six means-tested benefits with a single Universal Credit (UC), many were sceptical it could work and even more when you consider the rather ambitious timetable set by the Government and DWP (Department of Work and Pensions).
The programme of change started in Ashton-Under-Lyne in April 2013, with not one person turning up to claim due to the “Gateways”, or barriers to entry, created by the DWP. More than three years later, universal credit is in every job centre in the UK; over 900,000 claims have been processed with 450,000 recipients. Over the next 2 years, the Digital or Full Service will be operating in most, if not all, parts of the UK.
According to new research, one of the main groups suffering is private landlords and oftentimes the problems being encountered are not caused by claimants. In fact, most can be related to the DWP’s remote and completely ambivalent approach.
Here is an example of the type of case that Caridon Landlord Solutions (CLS) deal with
We received a phone call from a landlord who advised that he had a tenant whom he knew, before signing the lease, would have to claim Universal Credit. Although very wary, from what he had already heard from neighbouring landlords, he decided to give the new system a chance.
At the time of the tenant signing the tenancy agreement, the landlord completed the Alternative Payment Arrangements (APA) request and posted the form to DWP’s Mail Opening Unit (MOU). After six weeks, the landlord noticed he had not received a payment. He contacted Universal Credit and they refused to discuss the APA. Not knowing where to go from there, he contacted Caridon Landlord Solutions (CLS).
We immediately contacted Universal Credit and were advised that they were not aware that an APA was in place and that they had paid the tenant, however subsequent payments would be made to the Landlord.
We called the tenant who stated that he had not received any payment yet and his universal credit payment was due on the on 07/01/17.
A week later we again contacted Universal Credit to see whether the APA was now in place and whether the landlord would receive the money. We were advised that this information could not be provided until 7 days before the next payment was due to be made, which was incorrect information.
After overcoming that obstacle, the advisor confirmed that the APA was now in place and that the next payment would go to the landlord and confirmed the landlord’s details.
To our disbelief, the APA had actually been set up in the tenant’s previous landlord’s details and the payment therefore would not be going to our landlord!
We challenged this decision both in writing and by tirelessly contacting the Universal Credit’s Complaints Resolution team. Doing so, we put a stop to the intended payment to the old landlord and ensured payment was redirected to our landlord.
Luckily, in this case, the tenant had paid our landlord client the first payment in full. However this is not always the case: we can sometimes pursue compensation in situations where the tenant accepts, cashes and misuses the payments, even though they’re designed to meet their rent liability.
Thankfully, we didn’t need to in this case. Our landlord client is also reassured knowing future payments will be heading his way. He also knows where to come to for help if he ever experiences similar problems with any of his other portfolio of Universal Credit tenants.
Caridon Landlord Solutions is a dedicated service provider specialising in Universal Credit and Housing Benefit advice for private landlords, letting agencies and housing associations.