Landlords have been advised not to raise a benefits complaint with the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) or Ombudsman – or risk it disappearing into a black hole.

housing benefit

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd’s Bill Irvine (pictured) says landlords are continually frustrated by having to make numerous applications for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) for Universal Credit without getting a response.

However, if they complain to ICE or the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), they’re now just being told to go back to the DWP.

Shambles

“The process is a shambles,” Irvine tells LandlordZONE. “ICE used to write to the DWP and say there’s been a complaint and sometimes the DWP would respond – now they’re refusing to do that.”

He adds that it can take two or three years to get an outcome from ICE, and even in those cases where the DWP has been found wanting, landlords still don’t get recompense.

Irvine advises: “You’re wasting your time if you’re looking for compensation. It’s better to escalate things through the DWP at a local level by continually following up an application and try to avoid using the word ‘complaint’, and call it a ‘query’ instead.”

PHSO replies

A PHSO spokesman tells LandlordZONE that the pandemic has affected its productivity and that it has a queue of more than 2,500 complaints.

He says: “We advise anyone who has a complaint regarding a service provided by Department for Work and Pensions to try and resolve the matter through DWP’s own complaints process first.”

Mick Roberts, who operates one of the largest private property portfolios in Nottingham, has had numerous run-ins with the DWP, and has a number of outstanding cases with ICE concerning incorrect payments.

He says benefits landlords like him have had enough, adding: “I’ve tried to be loyal but I’m not going through this process anymore, it’s too much hassle – I’m just going to evict tenants. Tenants don’t complain, but they are the ones losing out as all this means they can’t move because other landlords won’t take them.”

Response from the PHSO

A spokesperson tells LandlordZONE: “If you have failed to resolve the complaint by the DWP complaints process, you can bring it to the PHSO by complaining to your member of parliament.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. I called DWP repeatedly over weeks and months chasing an APA when it became apparent that a tenant had no intention of paying any rent at all. I was told different things each time, was redirected to other phone numbers, or e-mail addresses, each of which directed me back to the number I had called on in the first place.

    In the end the tenant left after four months, still with no APA in place, and causing all kinds of problems in the property, insulting and abusing me if I had the temerity to chase rent payment, and not having paid a single penny in rent.

    This was not the first problem with benefit tenants, but is the last. I would rather leave a room empty – or even sell up – than take another benefits tenant in.

  2. I will not let to anyone on benefits… I’m a full time landlord this is my only “Job” I advertise my properties at rents that are unaffordable to such clients as a strong deterrent.

    Sure, one cannot guarantee everything. Someone may be made redundant for example through no fault of their own but generally speaking if they had a good job in the first place they are likely to be motivated to get another job fast and not see the dole as a career option.

    I have 15 years plus in the PRS and my advice to any investor would be to stay away from the bottom end of the market, you may be tempted by the higher rates of return / lower cost of properties but if a tenant does not pay then you are getting zero returns and with older properties comes higher maintenance costs.

    My entire portfolio consists of modern properties built in the last 25 years, are all EPC C apart from one D which will be upgraded in the next financial year. All my tenants are happy, pay on time and like the fact that I maintain the properties at a very high standard. People only move on if changes in their life like promotion at work or divorce etc means that they have little choice but to move away from the area.

    I use a letting agent on a fully managed basis, so all financial checks etc are carried out and I also do my own checks on potential clients, Facebook etc can be very revealing!!!

    Tenants don’t know me, I’ve even been in a situation of being in a pub chatting with a tenant who was with a group of his friends sitting at the same table as myself and he was unaware who I was. I brought up the subject of “Dodgy landlords” and without further prompting he said to me “You should rent from my landlord” So clearly I can relax knowing that rents are going to be paid on time, every time.

  3. And this is the reason why I’ll never consider tenants under benefits. Too many horror stories and in my short LL career I had the unpleasant impression that some (not all) of these were of the ‘entitled’ kind. I am entitled to this benefits, I am entitled to this kind of support … So you probably also thinking that you’re entitled to benefit from my investment and pay the rent only if you feel like it? Over my dead body. Being extremely selective with applicants, some who work to earn their living, who have values and principles has so far been the right choice. And with the likes of Shelter and Co making us look like the villains and pushing for more constraints and less balanced PRS sector, the offer of rentals is not growing which actually seems to be in our favour so far by allowing us to be super picky

  4. I lost over two year rent arrears due to covid and the fact the tenant told Universal Credit she didnt live there anymore so therefore I was now allowed to have any payments. When evicted she was clearly there with all her possession and her daughter. Why don’t Universal Credit listen

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