DWP liable for interest on missing rent payment?
Our client was underpaid the housing element of UC after DWP made a mistake on her income in October. This led her to accrue a month’s worth of rent arrears. The client is still attempting to get DWP to acknowledge that they made a mistake, which is proving a long drawn-out process. The landlord is charging the client interest on the arrears amount. When and if they accept that they made a mistake will they also be liable for the interest payments?
NB the client has now been told that if she does not clear the arrears by 20th Feb she will be liable to eviction. Any advice on getting the DWP to act more quickly would also be welcome.
I don’t think there is much chance that the DWP will decide just to cough up these additional costs. Perhaps there is a possibility that if your client pursued a complaint to a pretty high level and the DWP accepted that they had done something wrong, then they might compensate for incidentals - but I wouldn’t bet on it.
I would be curious as to what you mean about a “mistake in her income”. That could cover quite a lot of things including things which are not really “mistakes” but a result of the way Universal Credit treats income or a result of somebody else’s mistake - for instance incorrect Real Time Information provided by the employer or mistakenly treated by HMRC.
Another point is that the landlord does not have any automatic right to charge interest on a missed rent payments. It depends on what’s in the tenancy agreement.
Finally, if your client’s landlord does decide to pursue possession action, its important that she takes advice. Legal aid ought to be available once a notice is served if she is on UC. See Shelter’s website (https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/eviction) and the Law Society find a solicitor tool. (http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/)
We will definitely check out her tenancy agreement with regard to the interest payments.
In terms of the mistake - DWP logged her as earning £1200 in the month, rather than £100. We’re not sure if that was a mistake in reporting by her employer, or a mistake in logging by the DWP.
presumably DWP are following their own guidance?;