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Deduction of rent arrears from income support

Its been a quiet day today, and I’m thankful for that. Its given me a chance to catch up with all sorts of stuff that has taken a back seat in recent weeks … including this much loved rant outlet of mine. I’ve also done mundane stuff like tenant referencing, and the outcome of one of those calls made me laugh. But I’ll tell you about it later.

Anyway, opening the post today, it felt a bit like christmas, even though it is still a few months to that time of year. In the pack of mail were 6 brown C5 envelopes, and no! not the sort that might have crossed your mind. These were flat, not stuffed, and on the back had “if undelivered, please return to DWP, PO Box XXX.. etc.etc.”. What is so cool about flat brown envelopes from DWP? They were notifications of third party deductions from income support, telling me that some of my tenants on benefits, who have either squandered their benefit payments, or refuse to top up their housing allowance to make up their rents, will now be paying it directly from their income support. The DWP only allow a nominal amount of deductions to be made, so its not a huge amount. But its the principle of the matter that has been established.

Up until November 2009, I had not even considered applying for 3rd party deductions, but one of my then tenants got right up my nose, I felt that I needed to make the point. I called the local job centre in Cambridgeshire to find out the procedure, but was put through to a main Job Centre Plus (still in Cambridgeshire), and there the Officers insisted it couldn’t be done for private landlords, and wasn’t meant for private landlords and had never been done for private landlords etc.etc. Anyway, having done my research, I quoted to them from the DWP handbook, and eventually, the Officer said she’d look into it and get back to me. To cut a long story short, it took nearly 3 months to get this particular Job Centre Plus (JCP) to deal with the matter. 3 months in which they still tried to argue it couldn’t be done, or lost documents I’d sent to them, claimed to have sent me stuff I hadn’t received or that they were waiting for instructions from above etc.etc.. Had I not been so determined not be beaten by the idiocy of the bureacratic and incomprehensible benefits system, I’d have given up at the first or second hurdle, let alone the tenth. But we established that it was do-able for private landlords. And I did manage to get some deductions before that particular tenant moved on.

Well, on 27th June this year, I sent out 3 batches of letters to 3 different JCPs offices in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, including the first one I’ve just mentioned in the previous paragraph. To short circuit the 3 months process period, I’d used one of their forms, and provided the information they needed in exactly their preferred format. I figured I might get away with 2 months process time, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be done in 3 weeks. From 3 months to 3 weeks – you gotta be impressed!!

Earlier this year, I had telephoned one of the Lincolnshire JCPs to enquire about their process for third party deductions, and was pleasantly surprised when I was told of its utter simplicity. Just write to us, with details of the tenants and the arrears, and we’ll get it sorted. Of course, having had such a struggle with the Cambs JCP, I was rather sceptical about this. But, I am glad to report that the Lincs JCP have proved themselves true to the information given me, and come through with the deductions without aggro. I suspect that matters were helped along due to the fact that I gave them the right information in the right format!!

Whatever it is, I’m chuffed to bits that the system has worked, and worked well in this instance. Whilst I might not be happy with the amount of deductions (that limit is set in stone by the protective government) and would have preferred a higher level, I am thrilled that something is coming in to chip away at the arrears that the tenants have systematically built up. More importantly, it shows the benefit claimant that they can run, but can’t hide, and that the system is not all in their favour.

I’m just waiting for the first one of them to call and squeal at me for doing them out of their dole money. Watch this space.

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    Posted in Income Support, LHA, Third party deductions.

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    7 Responses

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    1. Robert says

      Brilliant

      I had not even considered this, but will be contacting my local job centre shortly. Can you advise on the required forms and best format for submitting the application.

      Thanks so much you have put a smile on my dial.

    2. Clottie says

      well done.. oddly enough i have been researching this today.. and seem to hve discoverd that it can only be done for tenants still in situ.. once they leave.. the deductions have to stop.. is that what y ou have discovered ?

      collette

    3. Grumpy says

      Robert, I’ve emailed you separately with a guide and form. Keep smiling.
      Collette, yes, the DWP will normally only deduct for current tenants, and the deductions stop when they leave. However, if you want to pursue the debt going forward, it will have to be done via a court order.
      Good luck!
      Grumpy

    4. Sam Collett says

      So basically this can be used for any tenants still in situ and who have arrears? What about if HB now being paid direct to you but they still in arrears? Do they take than into account? Also, what is tenant currently paying top up (but you feel they could afford more) can that also be used? Thanks. Sam

    5. Grumpy says

      Sam, answering your questions in turn. 1.Yes. 2.yes, deductions can still be made. 3. No, direct payment to landlord is not taken into account. 4. Any deductions other than for paying off arrears cannot be made, without consent of the tenant.
      Regards, Grumpy

    6. David says

      Is there a minimum amount of arrears, like do they have to be 8 weeks in arrears or 4 weeks?

    7. David says

      also can you give an idea of what they actually deduct? are we talking £1 per week or £20?



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