landlord charges more for meals than the standard meals rate

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  • #274492
    michele darlington
    Participant

    we have a supported accommodation provider that is charging more for the preparation and provision of meals than the current £29.20.

    should we allow the excess as part of the service charge, or would you disregard the total amount (£45.00 per week) in full?

    it is a provision of the tenancy agreement that they take meals provided.

    #274532
    Andy Thurman
    Keymaster

    I would strongly argue that you should just disallow the set DWP amount. The full charge cannot be considered as excessive – very good value indeed!
    It is a quirk of the regs – for the heat/light/HW amounts, you are compelled to use reasonable stated figures with the DWP rates for use where not separately identified. For meals, the amount is imposed.

    #286366
    churdle
    Participant

    This would imply that the provision and cost of meals is both eligible and ineligible for HB wouldn’t it?
    If the regulations are saying that meals are ineligible but are not stated in any part of the regulations as being eligible then surely the cost, whatever the amount is, would be ineligible?
    We have a provider that is charging more than double the standard deduction – is that value for money. I would say that is excessive.

    #286372
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    What makes a service charge – any service charge – eligible for HB in the first place is Reg 12(1); but Schedule 1 then provides an exception to that for certain ineligible charges which would otherwise be eligible under Reg 12(1). A charge for meals is ineligible to the extent specified in Sched 1 para 2, but otherwise eligible under Reg 12(1). If the eligible portion of the charge is excessive it can be restricted under para 4. In this case that sounds extremely unlikely.

    If you read Schedule 1 carefully, it says a charge for meals is ineligible “subject to para 2”, and that an *eligible* charge may be restricted if it is unreasonably high “subject to para 2”. This demonstrates that the charge is indeed both eligible and ineligible at the same time.

    #286374
    churdle
    Participant

    Did you mean reg 12(1)(e) and 12(8)? These are service charges that are paid as a condition of occupying the property as a home. A person can occupy a property as their home without meals being provided or actually eaten.
    Do you think it was the policy intention to have an eligible/ineligible approach as suggested above. Why you the DWP say something is eligible and then make specific reference to it being ineligible?
    Also, why would a charge that is more than double the recommended deduction not be considered excessive – Is that an opinion based on research, statistics or reports relating to costs?

    #286375
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    The Reg 12 test is whether it’s payable as a condition of tenancy: basically if you don’t pay it you’ll run up rent arrears. This can be contrasted with a PAYG canteen service, which would not satisfy Reg 12.

    The intention is that HB subsidises the true cost of providing meals: it’s supposed to be an amount that the claimant can reasonably afford to pay, rather than amount that the landlord ought to charge. It has its origins in the pre-1988 Supplementary Benefit rates.

    #286380
    churdle
    Participant

    Anyone know of any caselaw on this issue please?

    #286414
    Leonard Payne
    Participant

    Anyone know of any caselaw on this issue please?

    Please tell me churdle that food costs are lower in Westmoreland 🙂

    The real question is why the food deduction is set at £29.20

    In the case stated, the cost to the resident for food is £45.00 making a difference of £15.80

    If this amount is deemed ‘excessive’, then you can go for it, but methinks you could be making a mountain out of a molehill. Methinks, its not a hill I would die on.

    Far more important would be excessive lease charges but ,,,,, rock on

    #286495
    helevans
    Participant

    We had one of our extra care scheme claims picked up as part of the DWP HB review.

    Since the scheme started here we have always treated the full charge for meals and kitchen staff as ineligible and the DWP review officer queried this as it should just be the amount in the schedule as uprated each year. There were no notes that we had in our records as to why the full amount was disregarded, or even why the HA treated the full charge as ineligible. So I went back to the review officer to disagree saying that we had treated the amount in the schedule as ineligible and therefore the ‘balance’ fell as eligible and could be restricted under Paragraph 4. This went to ‘arbitration’ with the DWP – which seemed a bit of a kangaroo court – and ultimately to policy – who found in the review officers favour in that only the specified amounts could be treated as ineligible and that we had no recourse whatsoever to treat the rest as such, even under Paragraph 4.

    #286545
    Leonard Payne
    Participant

    IIRC, there was a FtT case mentioned by Andy Thurman that said that the ‘balance’ could be restricted under Paragraph 4 if it was excessive. The statement of reasons were not given and I believe there was an UT in progress. Andy or Peter could tell you. Best advice though was to leave it alone.

    #286546
    Kay_Tade
    Participant

    I was actually going to respond to this, but completely forgot, with some case law I found which to me confirmed that the “balance” of any ineligible service charge (Not in the schedule) means it is eligible.

    Will see if I can come back with it.

    #286547
    Kay_Tade
    Participant

    See paragraphs 6 to 20 headed as “REASONS – SERVICES AND OTHER CHARGES” in CH/3528/2006, it is on site.

    Describes how charges, ineligible/Eligible, should work?

    Though it is about rent restrictions I think it explains and discusses issues raised about service charges similar to the question posed.

    The way I read it, if the figure is specified as an ineligible amount in the regs then anything over and above that is payable as part of the rent (Not services) unless of course you think it is too high (Different a ball game), if it is not a Park Lane restaurant kind of meal price I wouldn’t bother.

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