Residential Landlords Association (RLA)
Elderly widow and her landlord son win fight for Housing Benefit
Here RLA trainer, housing benefit and Universal Credit expert Bill Irvine examines a recent case in which a local authority refused to pay housing benefit to an elderly woman renting a home from her son.
“RLA members may recall an earlier article involving an aunt and niece, where Housing Benefit had been wrongly refused, simply on the basis of their close family relationship.
With my help, both eventually secured payment, including a backdated award, but not without a prolonged period of worry and anxiety and very real possibility the aunt might have lost her property, due to threats of repossession made by her lender bank.
This same issue repeatedly arises, and, if anything, is becoming even more frequent, as DWP takes on the mantle of assessing and paying “housing costs” under Universal Credit.
However, whether it’s the council or DWP that makes the adverse decision, the good news is, the chances of successfully challenging these decisions is very high, if you know how to tackle the problem.
My latest case involved a dispute between mother (claimant), son (landlord) and one of the London Boroughs.
The mother had, in January 2019, received notice from, her then landlord, who wished to repossess the property for his own use.
The mother, in her late 70s, had only months before been in hospital and was left very frail.
Her son initially spoke to social services and the council’s housing team about securing sheltered housing but were advised there was little chance of that happening, certainly in foreseeable future, and that she’d be better looking to the private sector.
The son registered her interest on various estate agency portals but nothing suitable and affordable was readily available.
Realising they were running out of time, the son purchased a property himself, using a small personal investment company he’d set up, due to changes in tax laws.
As the mother was already in receipt of Housing Benefit (HB) and the rent, he was proposing was less expensive, they didn’t foresee any problem.
However, literally days after the HB application was made, the claim was refused on the basis – yes, you’ve guessed it – the claim represented an “abuse of the HB scheme”.
Initially, the mother, assisted by her son, appealed the decision. In response, the council, instead of referring the appeal to the Tribunal Service, sent both a long list of questions to answer.
Both completed and returned their respective questionnaires but failed to convince the council that the relationship between mother and son was commercial in nature, and its decision should be reversed.
Two further sets of questions were later sent and answered; again, with the same result. It was at that point the son sought my help.
I drafted a very detailed submission for the mother and urged referral to the Tribunal Service.
After one month, I also wrote to the council’s chief executive highlighting how the council was effectively delaying referral whilst on a fishing expedition, with its series of questions hoping to secure evidence to use against my clients, rather than resolve the dispute.
I referred him to an Upper-tier Tribunal decision relating to another HB case, which exhibited similar characteristics.
It states: “Some local authorities have abused the possibility of “reconsideration” to delay, sometimes virtually indefinitely, the submission of the appeal to the tribunal.
“The technique involves asking a large number of supplementary, often in tendentious terms, so that the “reconsideration” can be carried out.
“If the questions are not answered, or information is not supplied, the appellant is told – quite unlawfully – that the claim has been withdrawn or terminated.
“If the questions are answered, further questions are asked seeking to exploit inconsistencies.”
My email to the chief executive thankfully forced the council to review and revise its decision, in my client’s favour, avoiding the need for Tribunal, and permitting an award from the date of claim.
The outcome was of great relief to both mother and son as the alternative of having to sell the property and, in the process, make this elderly and frail lady homeless, was unthinkable.
Anyone experiencing similar problems should seek professional advice and support, as the law, whilst supportive of the claimant’s position, is complex and often involves the need to present your case to a First-tier tribunal.”
To contact Bill with queries on Housing Benefit (HB) or Universal Credit (UC) visit his website: www.ucadvice.co.uk
Latest News from
Residential Landlords Association (RLA)
Sunak cuts housing support26/11/2020 15:48:00
Landlords have criticised the Chancellor for cutting the amount tenants relying on benefits will be able to claim to pay their rent.
Blog: Fair ‘Wear and Tear’ – What Landlords Need to Know24/11/2020 16:25:00
Every landlord expects a general level of deterioration in a property over time when renting to tenants. However, when it comes to assessing conditions at end of tenancy, what is considered fair wear and tear and when can you make a deposit deduction claim? In an exclusive blog Head of TDS Adjudication Services, Sandy Bastin explains.
Government plan rewards rent dodgers17/11/2020 16:15:00
New regulations published yesterday will mean tenants can build almost 18 months of rent arrears without any sanction.
Young forced to choose between rent debt and health16/11/2020 11:15:00
Young people are being forced to choose between racking up rent debts and risking their health due to rules limiting what they can claim for housing benefit.
Lockdown: Government clarifies position on possession cases09/11/2020 16:38:00
The Government has provided important clarification about the enforcement of possession cases during the second national lockdown.
Landlord confidence falls amidst Covid pandemic13/10/2020 14:25:00
Almost two thirds of private landlords in England and Wales expect their rental business to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic according to new research.
Local furlough cash not enough for struggling renters13/10/2020 10:33:00
The NRLA has renewed calls for a financial support package for landlords and tenants in the wake of the Chancellor’s announcement on furlough schemes in local lockdown areas.
Prime Minister wrong on rented housing07/10/2020 16:25:00
The Prime Minister is wrong to believe that those in private rented housing are unable to turn the properties they live in into a home of their own.