Reply To: Change of address…..again!


😯 Going back to my original post, I had also emailed the DWP about this issue and today, I have received this reply. I just thought others might be interested in the reply or have comments on it!

My main issue was with how to deal with a change of address as a change of circumstances when it was notified late, advantageous and with no special circumstances. I gave an example where someone had moved in October 2003 and not notified us until January 2004. This is the reply – sorry it’s so long:

“As you will be aware, although the Department for Work and Pensions has overall responsibility for the scope and structure of the Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) schemes, local authorities have full statutory responsibility for their day-to-day administration. This Department cannot give an authoritative interpretation of the regulations; that is a matter for authorities to decide subject to any court ruling and depending on the circumstances of each individual case. I hope, however, that you find the following comments helpful.

It might be as well to put all the information you have been given into context and into some form of order. As you are aware HB can only be paid to a person who has a legally enforceable liability to pay rent on the dwelling they occupy as their home. Therefore, where the claimant no longer occupies the home HB is not payable; this is our starting point.

The claimant has a month from the date of the change of address to tell you of the change to ensure that it can be treated as a change of circumstance and thereby ensure that the payment of benefit is continuous. Therefore, where the claimant tells you about the move and provides evidence of their new liability ‘on time’ the change of address is a change of circumstance and payment of benefit can be continuous by making a superseding decision.

Where the claimant tells you about the move ‘on time’, but does not provide evidence of their new liability, a superseding decision should be made to terminate benefit and the claimant has 28 days to provide evidence of the new liability. Where he does so payment is continuous by revising the previous superseding decision and thereby re-instating benefit, where he does not, payment has already been terminated.

Where the claimant neither tells you about the move nor provides evidence of their new liability ‘on time’, a superseding decision should be made to terminate benefit as soon as you become aware of the move, unless you accept that there were special circumstances behind the delay. If special circumstances are not accepted a new claim must be made if the payment of benefit is to re-commence and a claim for backdating could be made if benefit is to be continuous. However, a claim for backdating is unlikely to succeed if you have not accepted that there were special circumstances.

Where rent is paid direct to the landlord, both the claimant and the landlord are responsible for telling you of the change of address ‘on time’. Nevertheless, entitlement to benefit follows the same process as described above.

Therefore, in your scenario, as you are told of the change of address over a month late, HB should be terminated from 6th October 03, 12th October 03 or 13th October 03, depending on the terms of the tenancy unless you accept special circumstances existed. If a new claim were required it would be paid from 26th January 2004; any benefit paid in the intervening period would have been overpaid. This may in turn be effectively cancelled out by underlying entitlement, as the new entitlement is higher than the old. As underlying entitlement is merely an offset to gauge the overall loss to public funds and is not the same as entitlement to benefit there is no balance due.

You would only need to suspend benefit if you had heard from some other source that the claimant had moved. As soon as the claimant contacts you the above process kicks in and would again depend on how long it has been since the date they moved to the date the claimant confirms the move and provides evidence of the new liability as described above.

Whether a change is advantageous or not is only relevant where you can treat the change of address as a change of circumstance. In your scenario you can not so the fact that this was a potential advantageous change is irrelevant to the assessment of benefit.

I hope this will be of use to you.”

Any comments welcome! ❗