Warning to tenants on Universal Credit who could be forced to repay thousands
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is re-examining claims it approved without undertaking a standard verification process due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This means private tenants on Universal Credit could be asked to repay thousands of pounds sterling as part of checks carried out on claims during the foreclosure.
During face-to-face interviews with the DWP, applicants are required to provide verifications, such as a copy of their trending agreements, but these interviews were suspended when containment began.
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Instead, many new universal credit applications were drawn up online and over the phone because they couldn’t get to a JobCentre.
Private tenant Tina Newman, 40, said she was asked to pay back £ 5,372 of the housing component of her universal loan because she did not have a rental agreement.
She pays her rent and bills to one of her roommates rather than directly to the landlord in what is called a “rent-to-let” agreement.
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Ms Newman, who lives in Essex, had bank statements to show her rent was paid to her roommate, but the government does not accept this as a formal form of rental liability.
The DWP would accept a written letter from its owner as proof, but the owner – who has not been named – has refused to provide one and denies that Ms Newman lives on the property.
Ms Newman says the DWP did not apply for a rental agreement as part of its verification process when it first applied for universal credit in March after losing her job.
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Alice Devoy, a social worker working with Ms Newman, who plans to appeal the decision, said there had been a 100% increase in rental agreements from the foreclosure.
Ms Devoy said: “Refusing to provide housing allowances to those who do not have a rental contract is discriminatory.
“We are concerned that this DWP policy may be particularly detrimental to those in unlicensed properties.”
It is impossible to know how many private tenants do not have rental contracts because the “shadow rental” industry is notoriously difficult to collect data.
A DWP spokesperson told the Mirror that Ms Newman did not say she was subletting without a rental agreement, which would make her ineligible for the housing component of Universal Credit.
They said: “This means she received money she was never entitled to, and we are looking to correct that while providing support to ensure that repayments are affordable.
“Ms. Newman has now asked us to reconsider her case, and we have agreed to do so.”
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