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A Guide to Universal Credit

Introduction

  • Universal Credit (UC) is being introduced in stages across Great Britain by postcode area and there are 2 types:
    1. Full service is available to all claimants in certain areas, and they will have an online account to manage their claim.
    2. Live service is available to all single people not in a full service area, and these claimants will manage their claim by telephone, before moving to the full service. 
  • Claimants will be responsible for paying their rent themselves
  • Couples in the same household will get one monthly payment between them, this can be paid into a joint account or a single account in either person’s name.
  • Any other adults living in the same household who are claiming UC will be paid separately. 
  • For private sector tenants, their UC additional amount for housing costs will be whichever is lower out of their actual costs or the Local Housing Allowance rate.

Payments

  • UC will usually be paid monthly in arrears into a single account, so setting up a direct debit or standing order may help tenants to do this. 
  • Tenants can use the UC Personal Planner which checks what changes they may need to make to get ready for UC.
  • Budgeting support will be offered when claimants first receive UC.
  • This support can be money advice or, depending on their individual circumstances, an advance of benefit.
  • A claimant can ask for a UC new claim advance if they’re in financial need and can’t manage until their first monthly payment. This will be a proportion of the full payment and will be recovered over a period of time.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements will be available in some circumstances for claimants who genuinely can’t manage their monthly payment.
  • Claimants will be expected, where possible, to arrange their own rent payments as if they were in full-time work.
  • Landlords need to think about how this will fit with their own payment calendars. If they previously received a managed rent payment from the local authority, they will need to speak to their tenants to agree arrangements for collecting rent from them.
  • UC is assessed monthly and paid monthly in arrears. The first payment will usually be received 1 month and 14 days after they submit their claim.
  • If a tenant doesn’t have a copy of their tenancy agreement, DWP may accept a letter from the landlord confirming the current rent and service charges.
  • Claimants should tell DWP of any changes that might affect their payment, including annual rent changes and changes to eligible service charges.
  • DWP does not inform private landlords that their tenant has made a claim to UC.
  • UC will be paid monthly. If rent is paid weekly, the monthly rate will be worked out by multiplying the weekly rent by 52, then dividing by 12.
  • It will always be calculated based on a 52 week year, unless rent is charged over fewer than 52 weeks.
  • In the private rented sector, a tenant’s total rent is usually made up of both rent and service charges, which are not separately identifiable.
  • DWP will not need to collect separate service charge information for the private rented sector group as DWP will pay the lesser of the total rent or the appropriate Local Housing Allowance.

Problems with payments

  • If a tenant gets into difficulty paying their rent, the landlord can apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL) which will be considered on a case by case basis.
  • If you have a tenant receiving UC you can apply for a Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL) using the UC47 request forms.
  • Once the application has been processed the landlord will be advised of the decision. If the application is refused DWP won’t tell you the reason why because of data sharing regulations and claimant confidentiality.
  • The amount you receive may change from month to month depending on the claimant’s UC award, usually up to a maximum value of the eligible housing costs.
  • For UC full service tenants, DWP will use the landlord’s creditor reference number to pay both rent arrears and the managed payment APA to the landlord. 
  • For private landlords, a Bank Automated Clearing System (BACS) payment will be paid into the bank account nominated by the landlord at the end of the claimants’ assessment period on a monthly basis. 

Questions and assistance

  • If you have a tenant receiving UC live service, questions on behalf of a claimant can be raised directly with the Universal Credit Service Centre by calling 0345 600 0723 or emailing uc.servicecentrehousing@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
  • This email address is for use by landlords to escalate issues related to APAs and rent arrears payments.
  • If there is a threat of eviction landlords are asked to note the subject field accordingly ‘Potential Eviction’. It must not be used for new APA requests, or for raising any other issues.
  • Enquiries noted as potential eviction will be cleared within 24 hours. All other enquiries will be cleared within 5 days.
  • Advice about what information DWP can disclose to landlords about their tenants can be found in the document, Universal Credit: Housing Costs and Disclosure.
  • In the first instance the landlord should always  engage with their tenant about any issues. They can share the information from their account with their landlord, or other representative if they wish to as this contains information about housing payments made.
  • If more assistance is required the claimant can ask via the journal, face to face or telephone the service centre and provide explicit consent to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative.
  • When contacting UC, the claimant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the case manager can speak to the landlord direct. 
  • If you are unable to engage with your tenant you can contact the following number: 0345 600 4272

Alternative and Managed Payments

  • When a claimant changes address the Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL) will cease from the end of the assessment period before the claimant changed address.
  • UC can only make deductions in respect of rent arrears for a debt owed on the claimant’s current address. If the claimant changes address any deductions being made will cease. A notification will be sent to the landlord where the Managed Payment has ended.
  • Whilst a MPTL is in effect, the landlord must notify the department of any changes which a landlord can be reasonably expected to know which might affect the claimant’s entitlement to:
    • Universal Credit
    • the amount of Universal Credit awarded
    • the continued payment of Universal Credit
  • If the MPTL is overpaid due to a change that has not been reported by either the claimant or the landlord, the landlord may be asked to repay the overpaid benefit.
  • More frequent payment Alternative Payment Arrangements – paying UC more frequently than once a month - are one of the options that will be considered if a claimant is having difficulty budgeting.
  • The claimant should contact DWP to be considered for an Alternative Payment Arrangement.
  • They will also be offered personal budgeting support money advice.

Recovering rent arrears 

  • Arrears of rent and service charges for the property the tenant is currently living in are included in the list of deductions that can be made from a UC payment.
  • If your tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of two month’s rent or more, you can request a third party deduction to recover the rent arrears using the Request for a Managed Payment or Rent Arrears Deduction from.
  • The maximum rate at which deductions for rent arrears can be made is 20% of the UC standard amount.
  • The rate used will depend on the claimant’s circumstances. Only the claimant can request a change to the percentage rate by contacting UC.
  • If approved, rent arrears deductions will be paid under the third party deduction (TPD) Scheme.
  • Once payments are set up on the third party payments system, you will normally receive payment every 28 days and will be 28 days in arrears.
  • The first payment is normally received within 6 weeks from the date deductions commence.
  • A Bank Automated Clearing System (BACS) payment will be paid into the bank account nominated by the landlord.
  • A third party payment schedule will be sent to you with a breakdown of rent arrears payments. Payment schedules are issued by post unless you are set up to receive electronic schedules.
  • For details of how to receive payment schedules, an information pack or further information about electronic schedules (EDI) e-mail: customerpayments.edi@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Budgeting 

  • Personal Budgeting Support can be offered to anyone claiming UC. 
  • Many claimants will be able to help themselves through the online budgeting support services that are already available via their UC account.
  • UC has made funding available to Local Authorities and partners to ensure that face to face budgeting support is available locally to help the most vulnerable.
  • All claimants who have need of an Alternative Payment Arrangement will be offered Personal Budgeting Support money advice.
  • Landlords should make themselves aware of the local Personal Budgeting Support money advice providers. The Local Authority revenues and benefits team - or DWP regional partnership manager -can provide this information.
  • More information on budgeting support can be found on the Money Advice Service website.

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