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.
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.
“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.”
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.”