Universal Credit expert Bill Irvine is warning landlords that both the DWP helpline and email escalation system via dedicated district managers designed to support landlords is falling apart under pressure from a deluge of new claims and other Covid-related problems.
His comments follow our interview this week with landlady Moria Lumb, who despite her tenant being two months’ in arrears and spending the benefits, has been told there’s a four-month waiting list before her local Universal Credit office can investigate her problem.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this problem is getting worse,” Irvine tells LandlordZONE. “Private Landlords are losing faith in the DWP system which is supposed to ensure they can access Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) if tenants are unable to manage their finances or are misusing “housing cost” funds.”
Moira’s story prompted many landlords to get in contact with LandlordZONE to highlight similar problems.
Irvine says in recent weeks he has noticed that the usually helpful DWP landlord telephone helpline has stopped working, that emails to case managers with ‘meritorious’ APA requests are ignored or are taking weeks to be answered, and that overall the APA scheme is not delivering landlords’ and Parliament’s expectations.
“With one of my landlord cases recently I ended up contacting DWP head office in exasperation but was told there is no facility to speak to anyone in HQ. In this particular case, I had written to DWP’s Director General due to earlier non responses. Instead, I was directed to the generic landlord email address, which is exactly here my landlord client had started 2 months prior” he says.
“I’m retained by the NRLA to assist landlords secure answers, if not solutions and, in the past, invariably succeeded.
Things have changed
“In the past month or so things have changed. I’m experiencing the same frustrations as landlords and agents in their attempts to secure favourable outcomes to their APA requests.
“Like Moira, these are people, who are losing large amounts of money, while some of their tenants, who know how to play the system, are misusing funds designed to offset their liability and protect the tenancy. It’s scandalous what’s happening”
Irvine says the DWP avoid contact with PRS landlords; refuse to act on information relating to the tenancy and remain unwilling to intervene, even when alerted by landlords to tenant misrepresentation and blatant fraud. Some of these tenants are running circles around DWP and, in the process, costing landlords thousands of pounds.
LandlordZONE has contacted the DWP for comment.