Fuel Costs For Communal Areas

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  • #287346
    Pete Mc
    Participant

    Hi all,

    I am dealing with a supported claim and fuel costs seem on the high side. I initially tried to go down the “communal areas do not include rooms, just areas of access” route but they have thrown the Oxford decision back at me saying that they should be classed as sheltered accommodation and fuel costs have been split by floor area. In my exempt notes from HBInfo it suggests that we only include fuel costs for heating and lighting as being eligible for HB but I’m struggling to find anything to support that. Can someone please point me in the right direction.

    Any help appreciated, thanks.

    #287368
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    The Basey case is most certainly authority for treating exempt accommodation as “sheltered” for service charge purposes. It was a supported living scheme where the claimant had his own bedroom in a shared house with shared kitchen, bathroom and living room. The Court rejected the Council’s argument that sheltered accommodation is a term with a precise legal meaning, even though it doesn’t have a written definition in the HB Regs.

    I’m not sure how you would then differentiate between fuel used for different purposes. You argue that the ineligible charge is unreasonably low and use the standard deductions in para 6 … but para 6(4) gives the claimant the chance to override that with evidence of actual fuel use, which I assume you probably have already.

    You’ve prompted me to have another look at Basey as it’s a while since I read the full decision and I think it’s pretty clear that the Court was happy enough to treat a kitchen as a “room of common use”, and not just living areas that tenants use together at the same time.

    #287370
    Pete Mc
    Participant

    Hi Peter, thanks for your reply.

    I’m fairly happy to treat kitchens, bathrooms etc as rooms of common use. My issue was that, in my HBInfo notes, it says that, where landlords divide fuel costs by floor area, it does not work as we only treat heating and lighting as eligible for HB. It says Fuel for personal hot water, cooking etc. would not be eligible for HB. Whilst I understand the logic of people paying for their own fuel charges for cooking, charging their phone, watching tv etc. I can’t find anything which restricts fuel costs to heating and lighting only for rooms of common use.

    #287374
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    Nor can I.

    If it weren’t for Basey, you could perhaps make a case for saying that kitchens and bathrooms aren’t tooms of common use, because the type of fuel consumption that takes place in those rooms is different from the consumption that takes place in rooms where people congregate communally. Heating and lighting a shared living room where people socialise is an extra cost on top of heating and lighting the tenant’s private living space, and it would be unfair to clobber them with both. Whereas you don’t cook the double the amount of food in a shared kitchen, and you don’t shower twice in a shared bathroom: the amount of fuel that you yourself use to cook or shower would be the same irrespective of whether anyone else is using the same room before/after you. I can see how that argument could be used to say that rooms of common use are rooms where fuel is used for additional communal purposes, over and above your personal use of fuel.

    But the number of references to kitchens in Basey I think makes it very difficult to argue that a shared kitchen is not a room of common use … and once we accept that it is a room of common use, I cannot see any basis in the regs for splitting fuel use into different subcategories.

    Furthermore, I think that a floorspace apportionment possibly overestimates the personal ineligible fuel use because if the only kitchens and bathrooms (and washing machines even) are shared with other tenants, the fuel consumption is probably disproportionately higher in the rooms of common use. Anything we can do to help the punters with the spiralling cost of living …

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