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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Housing costs  →  Thread

DWP and landlord passing the parcel over ‘missing’ payments

CHAC Adviser
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So I’ve got a slightly sticky one at the moment. My client lives in a housing association property. His UC Housing Costs element covers, I believe, his full rent (or very close to at least) and is paid direct to the landlord. However he has got a few hundred pounds worth of arrears. On diving through his rent account this appears to be because three payments of the UC housing costs element are missing from the landlords information. One at the beginning of 2019, one towards the end of 2019 and one in the middle of 2020. He has been a jobseeker throughout this time and there’s no other income, partner, children, savings or anything else that could effect the calculations of his UC.

Now, I’ve checked his UC statements via his journal thoroughly and all the statements around the relevant months clearly state that he gets a housing costs element and that this is paid directly to his landlord. My client is certain that he hasn’t been paid any of this money himself. The DWP are fairly adamant that they’ve paid the money as per the statements (though I have asked on the journal for them to be more specific such as what dates did they make the missing payments, etc). Meanwhile the landlord are adamant that they’ve not had the these payments and in the most recent communication from the person I’m dealing with at the landlord stated that their UC Team have checked and can’t see that any payments have been missed on their end.

So from my perspective I’ve got a client who is being chased (gently to be fair) for rent arrears which according to the DWP UC statements he shouldn’t owe as the three missing payments were all made (and would more than cover the arrears) but according to the landlords rent account and their checking he does as they never got the money. Suggestions and ideas on how to solve this gratefully received!

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The simple and obvious explanation, at this stage, is still that the HA have indeed been paid. The payments have probably gone into a generic holding account, and then not been transferred to your clients account. Ask the HA if they have this type of system, and if any other tenants might have had similar problems. If they have then get the HA to look into this again.

HB Anorak
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Count the payments: at that time there should have been 12 a year, spaced 4 weeks apart but every so often there will be a gap of 8 weeks to prevent a second payment from falling in a single AP.  It’s not a missing payment, it’s a necessary adjustment to the schedule because UC entitlement is monthly while payments to the landlord were every four weeks.  I think the system can do pcm rent payments now, but in 2019 it couldn’t.  I suspect the reason for the arrears is the cumulative effect of a small shortfall between full rent and amount of UC paid - could be bedroom tax, could be an ineligible service charge, could be non-dep deduction if any children aged 21+

Gareth Morgan
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HB Anorak - 04 May 2021 01:48 PM

I suspect the reason for the arrears is the cumulative effect of a small shortfall between full rent and amount of UC paid

Agreed.  Are you looking at monthly UC payment and assuming that it relates to 4 weeks rent?

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HB Anorak - 04 May 2021 01:48 PM

Count the payments: at that time there should have been 12 a year, spaced 4 weeks apart but every so often there will be a gap of 8 weeks to prevent a second payment from falling in a single AP.  It’s not a missing payment, it’s a necessary adjustment to the schedule because UC entitlement is monthly while payments to the landlord were every four weeks.  I think the system can do pcm rent payments now, but in 2019 it couldn’t.  I suspect the reason for the arrears is the cumulative effect of a small shortfall between full rent and amount of UC paid - could be bedroom tax, could be an ineligible service charge, could be non-dep deduction if any children aged 21+

Is this based on a calendar year? When I count up the payments in 2019 on the basis of a calendar year then I’ve only got eleven payments showing as being made to the landlord on his rent statements. It appears he is still getting paid every four weeks but there were twelve payments made in 2020 just with one eight week gap as you suggested should exist so that does appear to be correct. But I still feel like there’s something missing in 2019 as I’ve only got 11 payments for that whole year?

HB Anorak
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It depends what date you are counting from and what date his APs run from.  In 2019, if you look at the date that seems to you to be missing, did it fall within the same UC AP as the previous payment?  If it did, that was a correctly scheduled gap,

Edit: Just occurred to me, further possibility is one missing payment right at the start of the UC claim if there was a delay verifying rent: DWP will often only start paying from the month in which the proof was received and that can be challenged (although a challenge is more difficult outside of 13 months)

[ Edited: 4 May 2021 at 02:34 pm by HB Anorak ]
CHAC Adviser
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Gareth Morgan - 04 May 2021 02:14 PM
HB Anorak - 04 May 2021 01:48 PM

I suspect the reason for the arrears is the cumulative effect of a small shortfall between full rent and amount of UC paid

Agreed.  Are you looking at monthly UC payment and assuming that it relates to 4 weeks rent?

I think that might be the problem. This is the first UC housing costs case I’ve ever had to drill into in any great detail (dumb luck I guess that I’ve made it this far without having to). It’s quite possible I’ve tripped myself up between the rent being charged weekly, the UC being calculated monthly and the payments being made every four weeks! Though as above I definitely feel like there is one missing payment from 2019.

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HB Anorak - 04 May 2021 02:31 PM

Edit: Just occurred to me, further possibility is one missing payment right at the start of the UC claim if there was a delay verifying rent: DWP will often only start paying from the month in which the proof was received and that can be challenged (although a challenge is more difficult outside of 13 months)

Going back over my notes the thing I’ve neglected to mention is that whilst he’s been on UC for years it was originally under Live service (where his housing costs were also paid directly to the landlord). He then had to change over to Full service which might also be causing confusion.

Looking at it he appears to have claimed Full service in November 2018 and got an AP that runs from the 16th to the 15th each month. That first AP under Full service (16 November to 15 December) contains his housing costs but is paid directly to him on his pay day of 22 December (which he then paid to his landlord a week or so later himself). From his next AP (16 December to 15 January 2019) onwards the housing costs are shown as being paid to the landlord by the DWP. But looking at it there are no payments showing on his rent account (apart from the one he made himself) until 14 February 2019.

Later in the year there’s a neat eight week gap between payments which tallies with what has been explained by yourself. It’s just this bit in January I can’t adequately explain to myself at the moment. I’ve attached the bit of his rent statement that covers this period.

 

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Timothy Seaside
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CHAC Adviser - 04 May 2021 03:15 PM

Looking at it he appears to have claimed Full service in November 2018 and got an AP that runs from the 16th to the 15th each month. That first AP under Full service (16 November to 15 December) contains his housing costs but is paid directly to him on his pay day of 22 December (which he then paid to his landlord a week or so later himself). From his next AP (16 December to 15 January 2019) onwards the housing costs are shown as being paid to the landlord by the DWP. But looking at it there are no payments showing on his rent account (apart from the one he made himself) until 14 February 2019.

Later in the year there’s a neat eight week gap between payments which tallies with what has been explained by yourself. It’s just this bit in January I can’t adequately explain to myself at the moment. I’ve attached the bit of his rent statement that covers this period.

This looks correct. He was paid direct on 22 December 2018. On 22 January, the DWP will have put his housing costs “aside” ready for their next four weekly bulk payment to the landlord (having missed the payment on 17 January) and so this was eventually paid on 14 February.

Then I would expect the payments to have been (I haven’t checked a calendar so this doesn’t take account of weekends and bank holidays): 22 Feb = 14 Mar; 22 Mar = 11 Apr; 22 Apr = 9 May; 22 May = 6 June; 22 June = 4 July; 22 July = 1 Aug; 22 Aug = 29 Aug; then we are in the “skipped” payment territory. In my experience DWP bulk payments to landlords take about four working days to show on the rent account - in our case, the DWP issues the bulk payment on the Friday and the payments clear to the rent accounts on the Wednesday. So I would guess that the 22 Sept UC payment to your client won’t have been in time to go out with the APA bulk payment which would have cleared to the landlord’s rent accounts on 26 Sept, and would have appeared on 24 October instead.

Last year, the payment system changed and landlords should now receive the housing costs by direct transfer on the day of the client’s UC payment. Arrears payments still come through as a four-weekly bulk though.

Timothy Seaside
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... on the other hand, it’s important to realise that they do sometimes mess up the payment completely. One of our tenants told us in January that their UC housing costs payment wasn’t showing up on their rent account. I thought I’d be able to explain it but no, it had vanished. After contacting the Third Party Payments team at DWP we have now established that our tenant’s housing costs had accidentally been diverted to a four weekly bulk payment with their arrears deduction and then the whole lot was paid to a different landlord. We are still trying to get it sorted out - nobody knows what to do.

Peter Turville
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Timothy Seaside - 04 May 2021 04:09 PM

... on the other hand, it’s important to realise that they do sometimes mess up the payment completely. One of our tenants told us in January that their UC housing costs payment wasn’t showing up on their rent account. I thought I’d be able to explain it but no, it had vanished. After contacting the Third Party Payments team at DWP we have now established that our tenant’s housing costs had accidentally been diverted to a four weekly bulk payment with their arrears deduction and then the whole lot was paid to a different landlord. We are still trying to get it sorted out - nobody knows what to do.

We had similar issues in the early days of UC full service locally. Social landlords stated they had not received direct payments whilst DWP claimed to have paid them. The issues appeared to include bulk payments not being paid regularly on an establish cycle, not paid as a single bulk payment to the landlord in each cycle but in ‘dribs and drabs’, payments not being made in date order (payment for a later cycle being made before that due for previous cycle), amount included for an individual tenant not being 4 wks rent but ‘random’ amounts, not being able to establish which tenant a payment was for, human error by landlord/DWP.

Not being a landlord we never established exactly what the particular issue was for individual clients but it took a lot of persistence with complaints / escalation route etc to resolve each case!

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Thanks all for the assistance so far it is most appreciated and has helped me to get some handle on what’s happening.

I’ve now sat down with a pad of paper and a calculator this morning and crunched numbers to try and get a sense of just what the heck is going on. I’ve also settled on financial years as that’s period that the landlord uses on the rent statements (though the rent is charged once a week on a Monday).

So from my calculations I’m happy that 2019/20 and 2020/21 are all correct with the payments that should have been made having been made. I have 12 payments of UC housing costs per financial year as you’d expect with one eight week gap appearing in each year. Comparing the rent charged with the rent actually paid also matches up nicely. But there is definitely some sort of an issue in 2018/19.

Looking at 2018/19 I have got ten payments of UC and one payment from the client showing on the rent statement. By my reckoning there is therefore one payment that’s gone AWOL. This tallies as the shortfall between what was charged and what was paid for that financial year is worth almost exactly one payment of UC housing costs. So I’ve eliminated two of the possible missing payments as being explained by the need for an eight week gap once a year to fit a four weekly payment into a monthly calculation (why, did they do it this way?!) but as far as I can see there is a missing payment from 2018/19 and I’m fairly certain it’s in the period that I shared above. So does anyone have any suggestions on how I can try and get this payment back?

I’m also slightly foxed as it appears that when he was getting Live service UC (up to November 2018) it was being paid monthly (on or around the 22nd of each month) but when he changed to Full service (November 2018 onwards) it changed to four weekly. You can see it clearly scrolling through his rent statement that up to November 2018 the payments are being made every four of five weeks and then after that it’s every four weeks exactly apart from one eight week gap per year. This I think is probably also confusing matters!

Timothy Seaside
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I’m going to try and rely on my memory of how things used to be, so I’m not 100% sure this is correct.

I believe that APA payments to landlords under Live Service were made monthly; just like they are now on Full Service. But from when Full Service started up until last autumn, payments were made as a month’s rent paid on a four weekly schedule. And when you went over from Live to Full you had to ask for APA again because it was treated as a completely new UC claim (I remember having problems with getting LCWRA, absent joint tenant information, and joint-ownership housing costs carried across for clients).

I think I’d want to identify when UC started, and when APA payments to landlord started. I have a vague recollection that it wasn’t possible to get an APA for the first payment under Live Service. If this is correct then your client might have been paid the housing costs in their first ever UC payment, perhaps? The difficulty is that you won’t be able to see it on their Full Service history - you’d have to ask UC for the payment statements for the Live Service claim.

The other issue is that the delay caused by paying four weekly in bulk can put a person more than a month further into arrears. And this can confuse your approach of looking at financial years. So if your client was already getting UC APA at the start of your 2018/19 financial year, they would have been paid on 22 April through to 22 November, then he paid on 22 December (or from the payment he got on that date). But we already know that for January, February and March, the APA bulk payments weren’t made until 14 Feb, 14 Mar, and 11 Apr respectively - so your client’s 12th UC payment of the 2018/19 financial year wasn’t paid to their landlord until a week into the 2019/20 year. Does that sound right?