A Benefits and Work member has been threatened with having his house repossessed and had his credit score destroyed because the DWP failed to arrange his mortgage interest payments. A DWP staff member claimed they are suffering from a huge backlog of work due to understaffing.
Trevor (not his real name), developed a devastating, life-threatening, condition that led to him being unable to work and his partner giving up work to provide full time care.
Their mortgage interest payment was covered by the DWP’s support for mortgage interest (SMI) scheme.
In April 2018, SMI ceased to be a benefit and became a repayable loan administered on behalf of the DWP by SERCO. Our member signed up for the loan scheme, under which the maximum amount that can be covered is £200,000.
Trevor told us:
“Our mortgage is for slightly more that the £200,000 so we have to make some payments ourselves which we do religiously. Despite this, we were receiving letters from our mortgage lender advising us that we were in arrears and threatening us with repossession.”
After repeated attempts, Trevor got through to someone at the DWP.
However, he was not allowed to talk to staff administering the scheme directly and the DWP staff member he spoke to could not get through to them because their phone was permanently engaged. The DWP agreed to call Trevor back when they knew what was happening,
“They didn’t ring and in the meantime we received a letter from our lender commencing repossession proceedings.”
Further calls and emails to his lender revealed that the DWP had not paid Trevor’s mortgage interest for at least four months.
By now Trevor’s partner’s health had also suffered a serious downturn because of the stress of facing eviction.
Trevor managed finally to speak to someone at the DWP who contacted the payments team:
“She advised me that the payments team had a massive backlog due to a shortage of staff but that they had moved our file to the top of the pile.”
“She then explained that the DWP had made an agreement with the mortgage lenders all of whom had agreed not to start any repossession proceedings against those affected by the backlog.”
However, when Trevor contacted his lender again to point this out he was given short shrift:
“Our own lender denies there is such an agreement in place and has recorded the arrears on our credit history and refuses to remove it despite the fact that the DWP have now paid our mortgage up to date. I cannot understand why the DWP would lie about having an agreement with the lenders if that wasn’t the case.”
Trevor’s mortgage interest has now been paid and he is fighting to have his credit record amended as the default on payments was nothing to do with him.
At the moment it is not clear whether Trevor’s experience was an isolated one or whether there is a serious problem which may be affecting thousands of people. The claim of a large backlog may be true or may have been a fiction to cover-up an individual error.
But as part of his attempt to restore his credit score, Trevor would like to hear if any other claimants have suffered similar problems with support for mortgage interest.
“I am particularly keen to know if there is an agreement in place between the DWP and the mortgage lenders and if so, are there any lenders who refused to sign up to it and also how many others have suffered similar experiences.”
Please leave a comment below the line or email us with your experience.
Benefits and Work is making a Freedom of Information request in connection with this issue.