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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletters/january-2020-universal-credit-andlord-engagement-letter
This Universal Credit newsletter aims to provide up to date information to social and private landlords about Universal Credit.
1. Recent announcements
1.1 Local Housing Allowance Uprating 2020/21
On 13th January Ministers announced that the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will be up-rated by CPI (1.7%) from April 2020, ending the freeze to LHA rates. This means that all 2019/20 rates, including the national caps, will be increased by 1.7% up to a maximum of the 30th percentile.
The rates for 2020/21 will be published, in line with normal procedures, on the last working day of January and will be applicable from April 2020.
1.2 £10 million UC Transition Fund
On 1 November 2019 the Secretary of State announced a £10 million Universal Credit Transition Fund for outreach programmes to help vulnerable people make Universal Credit claims.
1.3 Universal Credit statistics 29 April 2013 to 12 December 2019
These statistics cover the number of people and households on Universal Credit, starts and claims have been updated.
2. New products
2.1 UC Landlord Guidance and Information for landlords
We have brought together all UC Landlord Guidance and information for landlords in to one landing page called Information for landlords
This collection of information will make it easier for landlords to navigate and access the help they need to support their UC tenants.
2.2 Landlord video
A new video for Private Rented Sector Landlords has been developed with Private Landlord Representatives and published on the Understanding Universal Credit website.
2.3 Private Rented Sector landlord and claimant journey
A new pictorial communication has been developed for Private Rented Sector Landlords to help them understand the landlord and claimant journey. This can also be found on the Understanding Universal Credit website.
2.4 Housing queries routeway
A new routeway has been published on the landlord pages of the Understanding Universal Credit Website to highlight the routes to take if you need to contact us.
For general information about Universal Credit you can speak with your Partnership Manager. For specific information in relation to one of your tenants you can speak with your tenant or you can contact the Service Centre.
More information about what landlords need to do can be found on the understanding Universal Credit website
2.5 Landlord Portal for Social Sector Landlords
How to get access to the Universal Credit Landlord Portal – For Social Rented Sector Landlords
The Universal Credit Landlord Portal and Trusted Partner Scheme were introduced to landlords in August 2017, where we now have over 700 Social landlords who are enrolled onto the UC Landlord Portal.
Using the UC Landlord Portal is different to the established email process for verifying rent. The UC Portal allows social landlords to verify rent and submit managed payment requests through the Portal, instead of using the email process.
How do I find out if I am eligible to enrol on the UC Landlord Portal?
If you are a social landlord and would like more information, or to see if you are eligible for the Trusted Partner Scheme and enrolment on to the Universal Credit Landlord Portal, please refer to the guidance about the trusted partner scheme for landlords.
We will then contact you to discuss potential enrolment if appropriate.
3. UC product development
3.1 Payment frequency of Social Rented Sector Managed Payments
We are continuing to test the new feature which issues Managed Payments to landlords at the same time as the claimant’s payment and hope to be able to announce our next steps by early Spring.
3.2 Rent Changes 2020
The approach to support rent changes in 2020 is still being agreed. We will publish further information about this on Gov.uk. It remains the claimant’s responsibility to notify all changes of circumstances (including housing costs) when they occur via their UC account; and we ask all landlords to work with their UC tenants to ensure they report any housing cost changes at the correct time.
We have worked with a group of landlords to design an approach to help inform their notifications so claimants can declare information correctly.
We are also exploring how and when we might bulk upload to verify claimant data.
3.3 Rent changes notifications
On Wednesday 15th January 2020, DWP held a workshop in Manchester, attended by representatives of 5 social landlords and various officials of the DWP Universal Credit Programme.
The goal of the meeting was to gain a greater understanding the needs of Universal Credit claimants in relation to the Annual Rent change notification.
The sessions also looked at:
what goes into existing rent increase notifications and why
an overview of the ‘to-do’ the claimant has to complete to report the change
what information a claimant needs to successfully complete the ‘to-do’
a critique on a sample of rent increase notifications provided by landlords at the workshop
The sessions identified that the notifications ‘could be clearer’.
The final session considered improvements that landlords could make to rent increase letters to help their tenants provide correct rent information.
The following wording was suggested by the Social Sector Landlords who attended and it was agreed it would enable a UC claimant to report a change to their rent.
From the [insert date of change] your new rent charge will be [insert new rent] and your new eligible service charge will be [insert total new eligible service charges] charged [insert frequency].
Please report this change to DWP on, or as soon after ‘Insert date of change’ as possible.
Feel free to use this wording on your rent increase notifications if you wish to do so.
4. Top tips for landlords
4.1 Here are our top tips to help you support your tenant with their Universal Credit claim.
It’s important that you use the most up to date version of the UC47. Please check regularly to find the most up to date version of the Universal Credit and landlords guide and UC47
Ensuring your tenants have accurate documents that prove their liability to pay rent and their occupancy of the property they’re claiming for. Missing or inaccurate evidence could delay their first payment.
Encouraging your tenants to open a bank, building society or credit union account will make sure they’re ready for their first Universal Credit payment, and allow them to arrange direct debits or standing orders for their rent.
Remind your tenant that if they can’t manage until their first payment they can apply for an advance. The maximum amount they can get will be the same as their first estimated Universal Credit monthly payment. They will need to pay this back from future Universal Credit payments, usually over 12 months, although this will be extended to 16 months in 2021.
Your tenant can use some of their Universal Credit advance to help pay their rent. Please speak with your tenant when you support them with their claim to Universal Credit.
Encourage your tenant to discuss their ability to budget with their work coach so any Alternative Payment Arrangement can be identified at the start of the claim.
Citizens Advice (England and Wales) and Citizens Advice Scotland deliver a ‘Help to Claim’ service to anyone who requires support to make a new Universal Credit claim. Help to Claim can be accessed at any time until the first full correct payment of Universal Credit is in place. This includes anyone moving from another benefit to Universal Credit following a change of circumstances. The service can be accessed online through a webchat, through a freephone number and face to face through local Citizens Advice services.
More information about getting an advance.
4.2 Contacting Universal Credit regarding your tenant - good practice for landlords
In the first instance the landlord should contact their tenant about any issue as the tenant has access to their own information via their online account.
The tenant 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.
The landlord must not:
a. request or hold the log-in details for a tenant’s Universal Credit online account and/or
b. make disclosing these details or allowing access to the tenant’s online account a condition of the tenancy
If more assistance is required, the claimant can seek this via their journal, face-to-face with their work coach or by contacting the service centre by telephone.
Before a landlord can contact DWP to discuss their tenants case, the claimant must first have provided their explicit consent to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative via their journal, face-to-face with their work coach or by contacting the service centre by telephone.
Consent will need to be provided for each separate enquiry from the landlord.
When contacting Universal Credit, the landlord 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 service centre.
Universal Credit service centre
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
When calling the service centre, the integrated telephony system will filter the call directly to the case manager dealing with the claim as long as some unique identification questions about the claimant can be answered.
the telephone number the claimant has registered with Universal Credit
their post code
the 1st line of their address
their date of birth
Explicit consent will be required if the landlord is calling on their behalf.
We recommend that the claimant is always to hand when any representative contacts the UC service centre on behalf of a claimant they are supporting.
If you are experiencing difficulties, contact the DWP partnership team for your area to find out how we can work together.
There is also more information about Universal Credit and landlords available.
5. Additional Information
5.1 Third Party Payments guidance
Payment Services Third Party Helpline continue to receive calls enquiring about what appears to be ‘missed payments’. The following extract from the Third Party Creditors Handbook explains the payment cycle which hopefully will go some way to reducing queries.
Once payments are set up on the third party payments system, you, the creditor, will normally receive payment every 28 days and will be 28 days in arrears. Creditors will usually expect to receive the first payment for a customer on your next payment schedule within 6 weeks from the date deductions have commenced.
As such you will receive 12 payments in a calendar year. This is because assessment periods for Universal Credit are calendar monthly – therefore we assess what deductions can be made from Universal Credit 12 times each year at the end of each assessment period.
Consequently, there will always be one 28-day payment cycle each year that does not align with the assessment of deductions from Universal Credit. When this is will depend on the date of the assessment period for a particular customer and the specific dates that apply to the creditor for a particular debt: the date of the assessment period depends on the date of the claim.
The payment you receive may change from month to month depending on what other deductions are made according to the priority order.
A BACS (Bank Automated Clearing System) payment will be made into the bank account nominated by you, the creditor.
More information about how we pay landlords using the third party payment system is in the DWP Creditors Handbook
5.2 Universal Credit and homeless people
5.3 Support for Refugees
Universal Credit has been working with The Home Office and The Refugee Council to develop a product that will help refugees get the support they need at the appropriate time. The new product encourages refugees to act quickly to ensure accommodation and financial support is in place at the end of the ‘move on’ period.
The product outlines how important it is that refugees take appropriate action once they have received leave to remain in the UK.
The product has been tested with refugees and some refugee support organisations.The feedback we have received has been very positive. It is important that we now share this information with the relevant advisory and support organisations.
Here is a flat-text version of the leaflet.
5.4 Increased DWP support for veterans
More armed forces veterans will be helped into work thanks to new funding that will secure additional specialist support in jobcentres.
6. Setting up email alerts
Email alerts are a really good way to receive Universal Credit (UC) information that has been updated on GOV.UK.
Sign up for email alerts and add your email address and decide how often you would like to receive the alerts.
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