In December 2017, the Department for Work & Pensions ended the practice of requiring a tenant’s explicit consent for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) to be put in place. This APA would mean direct payment of the housing cost element of Universal Credit being paid direct to the landlord if the tenant is struggling to budget.
The new process should considerably simplify and speed up the APA request for landlords and will continue to retain a safeguard for the claimant to challenge the APA request e.g. where the claimant is in dispute with the landlord.
The tenant will no longer be asked or required to give explicit consent for an APA. The tenant will now be told that an APA has been applied for by the landlord, and the reason. The tenant will then have 7 days to provide proof that either the basis of the claim is wrong, or proof of a valid landlord/tenant dispute. Such evidence could be proof of payment (for rent arrears claims), or correspondence with local authority/CAB about repair issues (for landlord/tenant dispute)
If the tenant cannot prove that the basis for the APA is unfounded, or that there is a valid landlord/tenant dispute, or if they just ignore it, the APA will be put in place after 7 days.
In addition, when a claimant is asked to verify their rent, the DWP will also ask them if their housing benefit was being paid directly to their landlord prior to their UC claim and the reasons for this. This will allow work coaches to have a conversation with the claimant to determine whether a managed payment to landlord APA for the UC claim may need to be applied, if appropriate.