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Landlord Portal News

Timothy Seaside
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For anybody who’s interested in these things (I know there’s at least one of you)...

The landlord portal has been updated so that we can now update a tenant’s housing costs without being prompted (previously it has been a case of responding to a verification request). We are aware of tenants who have been getting the same housing costs since 2019, so now we can do something to help them. I’ve tried it and it seems to work.

A second development (which I will be trying after lunch) is that it is now possible to alert UC to an “absent joint tenant” (previously unpleasantly referred to by UC as an “untidy” tenancy). The process is a bit weird, but if it means people don’t get half their housing costs automatically stopped then I think it’s a good thing.

I mention this here in the hope that it’s helpful for advice providers to understand what steps landlords can take to help their UC tenants.

HB Anorak
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That is very helpful indeed and will immediately come in useful today on an “untidy tenancy” enquiry I have on my desk.  Many thanks Tim.

Elliot Kent
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Also appreciate the update. The annual rent updates is a positive change. As I’m sure you appreciate there are many people running around with figures from previous years and its never been obvious why this cannot be sorted out via the portal.

Timothy Seaside
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A warning about the new absent joint tenant process.

As I mentioned above, the process for an absent joint tenant is a bit odd. Basically we have to tick the box to say our tenant is not our tenant, and then we are given a text box where we can explain why we have said this is not our tenant - which is where we are supposed to explain they are our tenant, but that there is an absent joint tenant.

I did one of these yesterday after speaking to the tenant. She called me straight back to say that there was now a note (presumably automated) on her UC account saying we have told them she is not our tenant, and instructing her to complete a new change of circumstances. There is potential here for an infinite loop because the change of circs will give us a new verification request, and we’re supposed to say our tenant is not our tenant, which will generate a new note instructing the tenant to complete a new change of circumstances…

I’m seeking clarification from our DWP partnership team and from a contact at one of the UC service centres that covers our area, but in the meantime hopefully this will help other social landlords to avoid scaring their tenants too much.

Part of me wants to just get into the loop with a willing tenant and go around and around until UC intervenes. But part of me has other work to do.

Ianb
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Timothy Seaside - 30 April 2021 11:39 AM

But part of me has other work to do.

I imagine that’s the bigger part!

mycatismo
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Just wondering Timothy whether your tenant received a “Record a change in joint tenancy costs” To Do?  as described in https://www.housing.org.uk/news-and-blogs/news/new-advice-dwp-universal-credit-calculations/.

We were thinking a new verification request wouldn’t be triggered if they have already verified the full rent?

Timothy Seaside
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mycatismo - 03 May 2021 07:25 PM

Just wondering Timothy whether your tenant received a “Record a change in joint tenancy costs” To Do?  as described in https://www.housing.org.uk/news-and-blogs/news/new-advice-dwp-universal-credit-calculations/.

We were thinking a new verification request wouldn’t be triggered if they have already verified the full rent?

This tenant just got a message to say we had told them she was not our tenant, and it said she should complete the Report A Change process to tell them about her housing.

Having looked into it a bit more, this appears to be deliberate. The idea is that when we reject a verification (either a full verification, or a rent increase) the UC claim manager will see this, read our comments, and then start a manual verification in its place. Perhaps the manual verification includes the “Record a change in joint tenancy costs” To-do?

The problem is that the notification to the tenant that we’ve rejected a verification is automated and instantaneous, so unless we’ve warned the tenant before the rejection it is likely that a) the tenant is going to get a nasty surprise, and b) we are going to get a repeat verification request.

I have heard of social landlords simply taking the view that UC can’t be trusted to get it right, so they just verify it and don’t say it’s a joint tenancy - so you get the right answer without having to worry about confusing them. You take the weakest link out of the chain and they’re none the wiser.

I always disliked the phrase “untidy tenancy” - it has a pejorative air. In reality it is the UC processes that are a mess; not the tenancies.

mycatismo
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Thanks for this Timothy - useful info.
We don’t like the term ‘untidy tenancies’ either, but then again ‘absent joint tenant’ isn’t great as it sounds like they’re coming back!

JoW
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We are having loads of issues with these too. It is counter intuitive to say they aren’t our tenant when they are and we were previously advised to not reject them. Really confusing for tenants who, as you say, get something saying we have said they aren’t our tenant.

We are forever getting emails from DWP asking us to:

1)  issue a sole tenancy - but we can’t without the absent tenants agreement and won’t if there are rent arrears.
2) confirm the absent joint tenant doesn’t live there. How can we know? We can only take the tenants word for it? They need to investigate if they have reason to doubt tenants word.

I am also concerned that now we have the ability to update rent are DWP expecting us to do this every year for all our 4000 (and rising) tenants on UC? A huge administrative burden. But if we do update for some then shouldn’t we do for all?

[ Edited: 6 May 2021 at 04:28 pm by JoW ]
Ianb
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All of the above seems very confusing!

Interestingly the House of Commons deposited paper on Joint Tenancies makes it all sound very simple.
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2020-0646/83._Joint_tenancies_v8.0.pdf

“Absent joint tenant - only one joint tenant resident
Where the claimant has a joint tenancy but is the only joint tenant living in the property, the claimant is treated as liable for the total rent.
This can apply to both Social Rented Sector (SRS) and Private Rented Sector(PRS) cases. The declaration from the claimant is sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement.
This is an absent joint tenant case.”

Note in particular the sentence “The declaration from the claimant is sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement”.

Aurelia
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This is a constant battle of back and forth between the DWP and the tenant to get the DWP to pay the full rent to the joint tenant that has remained in the property. The not so new process that came in June 2020 was supposed to alleviate this issue and not have the burden left on the tenant. Am concerned that tenants are being discriminated against by the DWP for splitting up with their partner and for the tenants who do have access to advice or understand the system are being left in rent arrears. Is there any sort of legal challenge that could be raised for the DWP not following their own process with regarding to “untidy tenancies” ?

Ianb
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Aurelia - 07 May 2021 08:31 AM

..Is there any sort of legal challenge that could be raised for the DWP not following their own process with regarding to “untidy tenancies” ?

They seem to have dropped the term “untidy tenancy” and replaced it with “absent joint tenant case”.

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Ianb - 06 May 2021 05:00 PM

All of the above seems very confusing!

Interestingly the House of Commons deposited paper on Joint Tenancies makes it all sound very simple.
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2020-0646/83._Joint_tenancies_v8.0.pdf

“Absent joint tenant - only one joint tenant resident
Where the claimant has a joint tenancy but is the only joint tenant living in the property, the claimant is treated as liable for the total rent.
This can apply to both Social Rented Sector (SRS) and Private Rented Sector(PRS) cases. The declaration from the claimant is sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement.
This is an absent joint tenant case.”

Note in particular the sentence “The declaration from the claimant is sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement”.

“The declaration from the claimant is sufficient to satisfy the verification requirement”

It’s a recurring theme that could be so easily sorted at jobcentre level etc etc. Yet allowed to fester on and on needlessly.

Timothy Seaside
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Aurelia - 07 May 2021 08:31 AM

This is a constant battle of back and forth between the DWP and the tenant to get the DWP to pay the full rent to the joint tenant that has remained in the property. The not so new process that came in June 2020 was supposed to alleviate this issue and not have the burden left on the tenant. Am concerned that tenants are being discriminated against by the DWP for splitting up with their partner and for the tenants who do have access to advice or understand the system are being left in rent arrears. Is there any sort of legal challenge that could be raised for the DWP not following their own process with regarding to “untidy tenancies” ?

You’re absolutely correct that the process has existed since last summer - it didn’t come to my attention until recently because of some communication issues with DWP (it doesn’t help that they have disbanded the Landlord Portal management team, and have done away with the dedicated email address).

I haven’t seen the actual DWP guidance, but the report that mycatismo links to (https://www.housing.org.uk/news-and-blogs/news/new-advice-dwp-universal-credit-calculations/) seems to be pretty clear that the shenanigans that JoW is experiencing shouldn’t be happening. Certainly if the DWP is not following its own guidance then that would be grounds for JR. But in the cases where it’s been an issue for my clients, they are only interested in getting the right money (i.e. through MR and appeal) and have no interest in continuing to fight an academic battle about how the DWP should have made its decision in the first place.

Timothy Seaside
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JoW - 06 May 2021 04:26 PM

I am also concerned that now we have the ability to update rent are DWP expecting us to do this every year for all our 4000 (and rising) tenants on UC? A huge administrative burden. But if we do update for some then shouldn’t we do for all?

I share your concerns. It feels like they’ve had a little go at automating it, decided it was too hard, and reverted back to a system that causes us a massive administrative headache (we’ve only got about 700 tenants on UC but if all goes well that would be 700+ rent verifications to do every April, on top of all the new claims and other changes). But unless it makes it an administrative headache for them, why would they care? In reality we know that a fraction of tenants are completing the rent verifications, some are doing them as a whole change of circumstances (a much longer verification process), and there are tenants who are getting UC HC at rates that are two years out of date. It’s in our (and our tenants’) interests to identify them and change them ourselves, so we try to. But the only ones we can systematically identify are the APAs because then we know how much they’re getting (although this isn’t so easy in bedroom tax, HCC or other cases where UC doesn’t cover full rent).

We regularly have to upload a CSV file of all our properties. If only there was some way we could send them more information like the rent, and the number of bedrooms. I feel certain that the super-computer technology will one day exist so that this will be possible.

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Timothy Seaside - 07 May 2021 11:26 AM
Aurelia - 07 May 2021 08:31 AM

This is a constant battle of back and forth between the DWP and the tenant to get the DWP to pay the full rent to the joint tenant that has remained in the property. The not so new process that came in June 2020 was supposed to alleviate this issue and not have the burden left on the tenant. Am concerned that tenants are being discriminated against by the DWP for splitting up with their partner and for the tenants who do have access to advice or understand the system are being left in rent arrears. Is there any sort of legal challenge that could be raised for the DWP not following their own process with regarding to “untidy tenancies” ?

You’re absolutely correct that the process has existed since last summer - it didn’t come to my attention until recently because of some communication issues with DWP (it doesn’t help that they have disbanded the Landlord Portal management team, and have done away with the dedicated email address).

I haven’t seen the actual DWP guidance, but the report that mycatismo links to (https://www.housing.org.uk/news-and-blogs/news/new-advice-dwp-universal-credit-calculations/) seems to be pretty clear that the shenanigans that JoW is experiencing shouldn’t be happening. Certainly if the DWP is not following its own guidance then that would be grounds for JR. But in the cases where it’s been an issue for my clients, they are only interested in getting the right money (i.e. through MR and appeal) and have no interest in continuing to fight an academic battle about how the DWP should have made its decision in the first place.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/universal_credit_agent_led_proce?nocache=incoming-1672757#incoming-1672757