Tenants are being asked to comply with an extensive fraud checklist to confirm their eligibility for Universal Credit, which a landlord and benefits expert have labelled excessive.
Requests are being sent out asking for a copy of their passport, letter from children’s schools, and even the property's EPC certificate. Nottingham benefits landlord Mick Roberts (pictured below right) has already had to help four of his tenants with the admin and says some have called him in tears because they’re unable to comply with every demand. He fears it could result in tenants not being able to pay their rent and being evicted.
“The stuff they are asking for is preposterous,” he tells LandlordZONE. “DWP said they didn’t do enough checks in Covid - but the same tenants already had post-Covid checks. These are completely new requests and way over the top.”
The list includes: a letter from school showing children’s confirmation of attendance, the tenancy agreement, council tax and utility bills, proof from the landlord that confirms what the rent covers, EPC certificate, gas and electric certificate, and photo taken from inside the house looking across the road. Those working also need to send the last six months' wage slips and employment contract.
Roberts’ tenants have been told to send proof in by 24th January and are warned that if they fail to do so, their UC payments may be affected.
Bill Irvine (pictured right), from UC Advice & Advocacy, says DWP is checking mainly on single people who made claims during Covid when the normal validation methods weren’t being used, and agrees they are going “over the top”. “DWP made no reference to further checks at the time,” he tells LandlordZONE.
“Sometimes tenants submit information, but DWP say this isn’t sufficient. In some cases, they suspend the person’s benefit, but they shouldn’t do that. Sometimes these tenants are getting evicted.”
Irvine adds that DWP have also been making demands for overpayments of UC to be paid back – in some cases, inaccurately - which he has successfully helped to contest.
A DWP spokesman says it is committed to cracking down on those who shamelessly set out to steal from the public purse, by driving down fraud and error from the benefits system. He tells LandlordZONE: “Our benefits system is designed to support the most vulnerable in society whilst also ensuring the public purse is protected against fraud. Support is provided for claimants when requests for evidence are made during case reviews.”