Universal Credit expert Bill Irvine says the DWP is using the benefits cap as a reason to halt Alternative Payment Arrangements (APA) which goes against previous advice from the department's boss.
In a letter to Irvine, at UC Advice & Advocacy, the DWP explains that in instances where either a claimant has requested that their APA be stopped, or the benefit cap applies, then the APA must be stopped, irrespective of factors such as rent arrears.
'This is because claimants who have a Managed Payment to Landlord in place may be left with little or no UC to meet other living costs once the benefit cap is applied and the responsibility to make these payments resides with the claimant,'� it adds.
Allowing rent arrears to accrue, leading to repossession action and eviction is not in the tenant's best interests, neither is allowing tenants access to their '�housing costs' when there's clear evidence of past misuse of such funds, says Irvine, but in high-cost rented areas like London, that's exactly what DWP is admitting.
He believes it might be acting at odds with its discretionary powers by introducing hard and fast policies, which effectively fetter staff discretion when considering APA requests.
'I also believe its standard responses are very misleading as they suggest they can't share information with PRS landlords/agents when they know, from their lawyers, this is not the case.'�
In response to a Parliamentary question this week as to whether the DWP would make an assessment of the potential merits of requiring housing benefit to be paid directly to landlords, Work and Pensions Minister Mims Davies said there were no plans to review the policy.
Meanwhile, 35% of social landlords are paid direct, but it's only 5% in the private sector. 'It's an absurd situation,'� Irvine tells LandlordZONE. 'Private landlords are being discriminated against.'�