Landlords’ applications for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) under Universal Credit are simply being deleted by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).
With APAs the idea is that support for housing costs in Universal Credit helps claimants with their eligible rent and service charge costs in cases where the claimant, for one reason or other, cannot manage their finances and meet their responsibility to pay their rent.
For these cases the APA arrangements are required, but it seems that landlords are being frustrated by the actions of the DWP when attempting to claim and set-up direct rent payments.
Universal Credit expert Bill Irvine has told the Residential Landlords Association that he has been contacted by hundreds of members complaining the DWP is refusing to deal with their applications claiming they ‘could not open attachments’ and as a result is entitled to delete the whole application.
The department, says Mr Irving, claims that the applications in question have either been sent to the wrong email address, or they have been rejected because they included supporting documents which should not have been sent.
The RLA members affected were those operating in Universal Credit “live” areas, and were using the non-secure email system set up by the DWP itself.
Mr Irvine told the RLA:
“In December I advised members of the DWP’s new e-mail facility.
“Designed to replace the original procedure, which required paper applications for APAs, sent by post to the Mail Opening Unit (MOU) in Wolverhampton, the electronic option was welcomed by social and private landlords alike – and until a month ago everything seemed to be working reasonably well.
“However, in recent weeks, I have had an influx of member e-mails, which all referred to APAs being rejected; why, was not so clear.
“The email seemed to be directed at those landlords (social & private) using the non-secure e-mail facility which represent the majority of users.”
The DWP has replied to complaints about this by saying that the non-secure system can only be used to make the initial APA application and that members who have had applications rejected are those who have attached the “Secure UC47” or supporting documents such as rent statements or letters claiming tenant vulnerability.
DWP has told RLA members with non-secure email, they must make their applications using the non-secure version of the UC47 form – which does not include space for sensitive data. In addition, any supporting documents MUST be submitted by post.
“If we get the wrong version of the form, we are technically not allowed to accept it. It will be rejected, and they (social and private landlords) will be told to send it by post – security colleagues are insisting on this at the moment”.
Mr Irvine has been advising landlords to include personal information, such as National Insurance numbers and dates of birth, as he is extremely worried the DWP will struggle to match up the electronic application forms sent by e-mail with documents being sent through the post.
He told the RLA:
“I have very real concerns about the DWP’s capacity to marry up the electronic UC47 application with supporting documentation – rent statements, vulnerability letters etc sent by post.
“I would advise Including National Insurance numbers and dates of birth, if you’ve got them, as this will greatly increase your chances of success. If you don’t follow this advice, more than likely, the APA application will NOT be processed, creating the likelihood of lost rental income.
“The DWP seems to be creating yet another stage in an already complex and lengthy process, which will ultimately delay payments and see landlords lose out on rents.”
Bill Irvine is an RLA trainer and Universal Credit expert. If you require any further information on this or any other aspect of Universal Credit or welfare reform contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A DWP spokesman said:
“We work closely with landlords to ensure the alternative payment arrangement process is a simple as possible, whilst also ensuring we protect sensitive customer information. We provide clear guidance to landlords on how to apply for an APA.”
• The guidance for landlords is available on gov.uk here
• Our guidance is clear about what information we can receive from secure and non-secure email accounts.
DWP rejecting Universal Credit APA applications https://t.co/wqjBSUQNhA
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) August 16, 2016