Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Our FOIs: Universal Credit - Housing Costs
Below are a selection of FOIs we have, over the past few years, sent to the DWP with the answers
We hope you find these useful.

Just click on the FOI you are interested in to see the full question and the answer.

1. Is it possible for a landlord to provide evidence of housing costs without the claimant's consent? For example where landlord has Trusted Provider status? Or under Data Sharing rules?
2. Is the form the same under the Full Service or is it a separate system/procedure?
3. What happens if the claimant does not provide consent? Please can you clarify for both digital and gateway UC services?

1. For a claim to Universal Credit, legislation provides for the Secretary of State to require a landlord to provide information or evidence. The relevant legislation is Regulation 37(6) of The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013:

“(6) The Secretary of State may require a landlord or a rent officer to supply information or evidence in connection with a claim for universal credit that may include in the calculation of an award an amount in respect of housing costs, and any information or evidence so requested must be supplied within one month of the request or such longer period as the Secretary of State considers reasonable.”

This legislation does not apply outside the new claim process so where a claimant has changed address, for instance, and information is required from the landlord to correctly assess the Universal Credit entitlement, the request is made with the consent of the claimant.

Evidence gathering for calculating for claims is not in the scope of the Trusted Partner Pilot. This pilot relates only to putting Alternative Payment Arrangements in place.

2. I can confirm that the UC 183 is not used in full service. We have attached the Social Rented and Private Sector Rent Verification Forms that are used in full service areas.
3. If the claimant does not provide consent where it is required, the Department will not contact their landlord to request information or evidence. The onus remains with the claimant to supply any information or evidence required to correctly assess their Universal Credit claim.

Click here to see the original FOI.

If a Universal Credit claimant (who has a housing cost element) applies for a DHP, and is successful, can or should the DHP be paid to the landlord if they are already receiving managed payments of housing costs to landlord?

Local authorities administer applications for Discretionary Housing Payments in accordance with the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001.
Regulation 6(2) of the DFA Regulations provides local authorities with a wide discretion to pay any DHP either to the housing benefit/Universal Credit claimant or “where it appears reasonable in the circumstances of a particular case, such other person as the authority thinks appropriate”.
Whilst the fact that managed payments of the Universal Credit housing costs element are being made to the landlord would be a relevant factor for the local authority to consider when deciding who should receive any DHP payments, there is no requirement for DHP to be paid to a particular party if certain circumstances arise and it is for the local authority to make a judgement on a case by case basis according to all the information in its possession.

Find out more about Alternative Payment Arrangements here on our website.

With regard to difficulties with... the new procedure for APA managed payments of housing cost element to landlords, ie paying them via the Third Party Deductions system… could you please direct me to any documentation which answers the following:

Are the APA managed payments coming through on a 4 weekly basis in line with the Third party deductions? In which case, is the amount adjusted to monthly?

The Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) managed payments for UC Full Service are made calendar monthly in accordance with the UC Assessment Period, but are then attached to the 28 day Third Party Deduction (TPD) payment cycle. There is no
adjustment in the amount paid.

Are the managed payments coming through on one schedule i.e. all paid at the same time regardless of the claimant's MAP?

The answer depends on whether the claimant is in a Universal Credit full service or live service area. All live service APAs will not come through the TPD process or appear on the TPD payment schedule. In the full service area, Managed Payments To Landlords (MPTL) are made via the TPD system at the same time as other TPDs.

If a full service APA is made clerically it may not appear on the TPD schedule. These
payments should hold the correct reference to identify the APA. Please find attached a
copy of the guidance for social landlords to advise of the new process for handling
MPTL APAs in UC full service.

Are the APA managed payments now taking longer because they are being paid at the same time as the TPDs or because there is an extra layer of admin to go through?

Once the request has been accepted, the APA managed payments for UC full service are made calendar monthly in accordance with the UC Assessment Period. Payments are then attached to the 28 day TPD payment cycle. The payment is released when that creditor is next due to be paid in that 28 day cycle. The timing of APA payments depends on when in the UC claimants assessment period, a request is made, and when the creditor is due to be paid in that 28 day cycle.

Are there are any rules about how long a third party (ie the DWP) can keep hold of the money - ie once the DWP have assessed the award and the payment date comes - then they are 'holding' onto that claimant's money for a bill/expense that is currently due - before paying it to the landlord?

Legislation on the timing and manner of payment is set out in The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/380).
There is a Universal Credit-specific provision (regulation 47) which states:
Payment of universal credit
47.— (1) Universal credit is payable monthly in arrears in respect of each assessment period unless in any case or class of case the Secretary of State arranges otherwise.
(2) Where universal credit is to be paid in accordance with regulation 46, it is to be paid within seven days of the last day of the assessment period but if it is not possible to pay universal credit within that period of seven days, it is to be paid as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter.
Guidance here.
Find out more about Alternative Payment Arrangements here and Third Party Deductions here on our website.

Previously you have advised us that: "Existing third party deductions for rent arrears will continue when a claimant migrates to Universal Credit. However, these will be subject to any changes needed to comply with the relevant legislation under Universal Credit."
How does the Third Party Deductions "system" automatically transfer deductions from a legacy benefit to UC - and is this a legal obligation on DWP or purely good practice?
And if there is a delay which causes a claimant's payments not to be made eg rent arrears, court fines, Council Tax arrears etc - which could have serious knock on effects, can a claimant claim compensation for this?

Third party deductions (such as utility deductions) from “legacy benefits” (such as old style JSA and ESA) are made under the provisions contained in Schedule 9 to the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987. When an award to a legacy benefit is terminated the payments under this provision cease.
However, there are provisions to transfer consent that may have been provided in relation to some legacy benefit deductions, so that it can be used for Universal Credit deductions without needing to gain a claimant’s permission to reuse the data. Please note that not all deductions require consent.
Regulation 18(3) in the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 specifically provides for continuing deductions in respect of fuel costs or water charges, without the need for further written consent. This is because DWP asks for a claimant’s consent to make deductions for fuel costs and water charges where, the total of these deductions exceeds a set threshold, and without Regulation 18 we would need to ask for that consent again to continue making those deductions where a claimant moves from a legacy to a new style benefit.
Delays to third party deductions payment under legacy should not occur, as we terminate that payment when the legacy claim terminates, then a new payment under Universal Credit’s rules when awarded will takeover. This is all done seamlessly and would look to a claimant like a continuation.
Advice on maladministration here.
Find out more about using Third Party Deductions for rent arrears here on our website.
Click here to see the original FOI.

In "Full Service" (Digital) areas, people in temporary accommodation can now claim Universal Credit. I understand that on top of the housing cost element based on LHA rates, there is to be an element for management costs, as described in HB Circular A19/2014. I have not been able to find more recent guidance or regulations on this issue.

Could you provide me with:
a) Any more recent guidance or legislation on this?

The legislation referred to in the guidance was never enacted and there are no arrangements to pay a temporary accommodation management fee in UC. In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015 it was announced that the management fee currently paid in Housing Benefit will be abolished by 2017. The management fee will be replaced with an increased funding grant that will be devolved to local authorities. Arrangements for the devolved funding will be made public by DCLG in due course.

b) Any timescales known on when the arrangements will be put in place?
The management fee will be abolished from April 2017 and will be replaced by the increased funding grant at that point.

c) Any information on what "there is sufficient money in the system to be able to absorb additional costs" means, for example does this mean that an appropriate course of action would be for the claimant - or possibly the housing provider - to request a Discretionary Housing Payment?
The Government has committed to provide £870 million in funding for the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme over the next 5 years. Local Authorities can use those funds to protect the most vulnerable housing benefit claimants and to support households adjusting to reforms.
For more information on Temporary Accommodation click here.
Click here to see the original FOI.

As per Regulation 19 in conjunction with UC schedule 3 Part 2 (9) it appears that in some cases a prisoner on remand (who could be found innocent) is treated less favourably under the regulations than a sentenced prisoner.
Specifically, whereas a sentenced prisoner could retain UC for housing costs, so long as their total sentence in custody is less than / expected to be less than 6 months; a prisoner whose remand is expected to / does go beyond 6 months would lose their UC for housing costs, as soon as it became apparent their remand would extend beyond this time.
This is very different from the situation under Housing Benefit whereby a prisoner on remand remains entitled to help with his rent (HB) so long as his remand is unlikely to exceed 12 months. This protects the innocent and allows those on short term sentences to return to their homes.
I cannot see how this unjust situation can have been envisaged in drafting the regulations. Can you confirm that this is correct or not, and whether there are any plans to remedy it?

Universal Credit simplifies a number of regulations in Housing Benefit (HB) with temporary absence for prisoners being one of them. In HB a claimant sentenced to prison remains entitled to help with their housing costs as long as their absence is not expected to exceed 13 weeks. If the claimant is on remand this support for housing costs runs for 52 weeks.

Universal Credit applies one rule for temporary absence of 6 months for both prisoners and claimants held on remand. Small numbers of claimants are held on remand past 6 months, however there are large numbers of claimants who receive sentences that are not expected to exceed 6 months.

This policy change reduces the risk that prisoners will be released with no housing and forced into homelessness.

Find the full version, including examples and regulations, here - UC Housing Element while on remand FOI Ref 317.docx

For more information on what happens to a claimant's Housing Cost Element when in prison/remand click here.

Please could you send any documents/guidance describing the procedure for an LA to receive proof of UC and housing cost entitlement for the purposes of determining if the claimant is eligible for a DHP?

G8 2016 paragraphs 16-18 is the most current guidance that should be used by Local authorities when determining applications for DHPs. The DHP guidance manual will be updated in due course.

16. We would like to take the opportunity to remind LAs that as long as a claimant has an established entitlement to housing costs for rental liability in Universal Credit they can apply to the LA for a DHP. The decision to award such a payment remains, of course, at the LA’s discretion.
17. In the full service, entitlement to housing costs in Universal Credit can be proved via access to a claimant’s online account. In live service areas claimants can request written evidence, which breaks down their award.
18. Until the end of the first assessment period of the Universal Credit claim, the claimant will not have an established entitlement to Universal Credit and we recognise that rent arrears may accrue during this period. However, once a claimant’s entitlement to Universal Credit housing costs is established for the period during which any rent arrears have accrued, an LA may decide to award the claimant a DHP to meet those arrears).
Guidance here.

Please could you send me any documents/guidance describing the procedure for a UC claimant to provide proof of UC and housing cost entitlement to a LA to show that they are eligible for a DHP?

Local authorities are independent statutory bodies who are responsible for determining and paying discretionary housing payments based on the facts of each case. Although DWP provides general guidance to local authorities, detailed procedures would be provided by each authority on the action to be taken by the claimant. A high level fact sheet is available on www.gov.uk as a guide for claimants.
Guidance here.
For more information on Discretionary Housing Payments click here.
Click here to see the original FOI.