Bill Irvine: Universal Credit – complaints process explained!

Written by RLA

RLA trainer, and housing benefits expert Bill Irvine, returns with his Universal Credit column for private landlords housing benefit tenants. In this edition Bill details the formal complaint procedure and challenging APA arrangements that have issues or have been denied unfairly…

RLA trainer, and housing benefits expert Bill Irvine, returns with his Universal Credit column for private landlords housing benefit tenants. In this edition Bill details the formal complaint procedure and challenging APA arrangements that have issues or have been denied unfairly.

In my bulletin http://universalcreditadvice.com/housing-associations/2015/08/universal-credit-apas—what-to-do-when-dwp-get-it-wrong I encourage you to challenge any Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) request, which is:

  1. Refused unreasonably or without adequate reasons being given; or
  2. Payment of the “housing element” is NOT suspended, pending a decision, and continues to be paid to your tenant; or
  3. After the APA has been granted in favour of the landlord, further payments are mistakenly paid to your tenant and subsequently misused.

Until recently, DWP’s handling of APAs has been seriously flawed, mainly due to a combination of lengthy processing delays, documents disappearing, and basic errors made by staff. DWP staff were also failing to recognise that they could suspend payment of the “housing costs” so continued to make payments to tenants, some of whom had already misused payments, accruing substantial rent arrears in the process.

DWP hierarchy has, only recently, confirmed the following “Complaints Process” which you and your staff can now follow if you’re unhappy with the way your APA has been handled:

The formal complaints process for all complaints regarding operational delivery, as set out in the DWP Complaints Procedure is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/complaints-procedure 

The guidance includes consideration of UC complaints, and sets out the escalation process.

In summary, the process to follow is:

  1. In the first instance, any complaint should be raised with the office that has been dealing with the case.
  2. If escalation is required, then the case can be referred to a Complaint Resolution Manager (CRM).The CRM will look into the complaint and try to resolve it, but if this is not possible they can refer unresolved complaints to the DWP Complaints, Redress and Stewardship This represents the final business review
  3. Should complainants remain dissatisfied with this final response, they can escalate their concerns to DWP’s independent complaints reviewer, the “Independent Case Examiner”.
  4. Lastly, if a) to c) doesn’t produce the desired result, the complaint can be referred via their MP to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, as detailed in the above link.

DWP has also confirmed to me that this new procedure will, in future, be outlined in the various decision notices, issued to landlords pursuing APAs and that the whole process will be continually reviewed and improved upon.

In the cases I have been dealing with for both RSLs and Private Landlords, the details of the Complaints Resolution Manager were not included in the decision notification, so I wrote directly to Neil Couling, Director General, Universal Credit Operations, expressing my clients’ concerns, and following various exchanges, the above process has been conformed.

Once the case is referred to the Complaints Resolution Manager they should consider, whether any further action is needed, to remedy any delay and/or injustice, including consideration of a further payment of Universal Credit or an ex-gratia payment, where payment has been mistakenly paid to the tenant. My clients have been awarded compensation by adopting this process, so we know it’s already working!

Information on ex-gratia payments is available in DWP guidance on Financial Redress for Maladministration which can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/309964/financial-redress-maladministration-apr-14.pdf

If you require any further information on this or any other welfare reform topic, please e-mail bill@ucadvice.co.uk or phone 07733 080 389. If you’re interested in becoming a member of our website, which includes, amongst other things, automatic access to such bulletins, UC legislation, guidance, discussion forum, and calculator, please get in touch.

Further Information

About the author



The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.


  • universal credits are the worst thing to happen, we have served one of our tenants with notice over the rent and universal credits they have kept the tenants old address and after we both the tenant and the agent sent all the confirmation, after phone calls asking security question which is the address still denying having her new address,, then when i tried to help her and asked questions with her authority they decided i was not good enough to speak to as they have to only ring her, the lady now has to sit in my office for 3 hours in the hoope some one will ring her back, also after payments where made to the lady all the money was wrong and all the details went to her old address where she has not lived there since june 2016
    this is the worst service ever, this lady will now be evicted as the landlord is refusing to wait any longer for money

  • OUTRAGEOUS….. As a landlord I have received 3 direct payments of UC for people who are not my tenants. So I phone the UC dept to explain this and hand back the money. but the guy on the phone states before he can talk about the issue he needs to ask me a security question. But these people are not my tenants and I have no details … then I cant speak to you was the response. I have money that belongs to some tenant and landlord and its in my account … Im sorry i cant speak to you was the response ….

    Unbelievable …. !

    We have 47 tenants on UC and its a real mess up when it goes wrong, between 1 & 3 months to turn around an APA. no stopping of the payment to the tenant whilst the process is going through (even though we asked them). We have stopped taking any further tenants on UC. which is a shame as most of them are decent people.

  • no one knows what they are doing at universal credit!i can prove it,time and again!never in my 45years on Gods green one have I experienced error after error,mistake after mistake.
    I have come to the conclusion that the DWP has gone stark raving mad and are making it all up as they go along.
    My eight yearold child could do a better job,seriously.

  • we recently had to claim universal credit though no falut of our own we have all ways worked due to illness it is has put us in a position where we have had to claim the worse thing we could have done first no money for over 6 weeks then a mix up with the housing costs we r in areaers of £900 plus council r therating eviction and repossession we had an agreement with dwp to them £25 a month due to and over payment and when we checked the jounal they had taken £ 182 out of the rent money of £314 we now have to make the shortfall up disgusting the way they r treating people i have never i my life heard of an agreement being cancelled by a goverment department without any notifacation at all we have to try now to get the rent under control so our only way out is to go for a dro with citizens advice sorry about the spelling but i have teperale arititis in my main arterie and can confuse my words

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