The RLA is hearing of more and more problems surrounding the Department of Work and Pensions’ handling of Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) applications.
APAs are the mechanism under which landlords can request that the housing element of Universal Credit be paid direct, instead of to the tenant. In a limited number of cases this can be requested at the start of the tenancy, but more commonly applies where tenant falls into arrears – with the equivalent of two months arrears being the ‘trigger point’. The DWP provides a ‘pro forma’ and landlords can also claim back arrears.
The system was supposed to be ‘digital by default’, but landlords are unable to upload documents when making an APA application, and have to rely on the postal system instead.
Landlords, both in the private rented and social sector, are struggling to get responses, either written or by phone.
APAs are not being put in place, even where rent arrears exceed the two month ‘trigger’, leading to increasing arrears and threat of eviction.
DWP staff are hiding behind data protection, to avoid giving information to third parties acting on behalf of landlords (and sometimes even those acting for tenants).
RLA retained housing benefits adviser and trainer, Bill Irvine is already acting on behalf of RLA members who are experiencing problems in securing APAs.
The RLA is working with Bill to raise these issues with the DWP’s Universal Credit team and ensure landlords – and tenants – get the service they deserve.