Change of address…..again!

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  • #20126
    lizc
    Participant

    😯 I have read the long thread earlier on this message board, about change of address and I feel reasonably happy on how we should be dealing with pensioner claimants that move out of our LA area or who move without telling us where they have moved to at all. However…I am still confused on how we should deal with a change of address where the claimant has told us where they are moving to, it’s an advantageous change and they tell us late (and don’t have special circumstances).

    What I’m not sure of, is how we should deal with the period in between the date they vacated the original address….and the date the change of circumstances takes effect, (i.e. the Monday following the date they told us that they had moved).

    Have I missed something or is anyone else confused?

    😕 ❓

    #2116
    ian hallett
    Participant

    Hopefully I’m wrong, but this is what I’d infer from the DWP answers about in-borough changes of address:

    Rent liability ends when someone moves. Consequently, entitlement would also end unless:
    – liability at a new address follows immediately;
    – the changes of circs rules allow us to treat entitlement as continuous.

    From what the DWP are saying, it appears a change of address will always be an ‘advantageous’ change, since notifying the change of address will take entitlement from nil to the amount based on the new rent liability.

    If the change of address is reported within 4 weeks, there’s no problem – entitlement would be continuous.

    If the change is reported after 4 weeks, there would be no entitlement until the point at which the change is reported. Since entitlement would stop when the tenant moved, any further entitlement would depend on them submitting a new claim.

    Sorry, this probably just adds to the confusion, and maybe there’s an alternative way of interpreting the DWP’s advice. It seems to me, though, that the rules haven’t been thought through in relation to this issue, and that all the options we have at the moment won’t make much sense.

    #2117
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    Ian I trhink you are right, that is exactly what is said.

    Received Reply on the outstanding issue:

    “This note is a follow-up to my note to you dated 10th September. You’ll recall that at para 12 of that note, the following issues surrounding notification requirements were left unaddressed:

    (a) for claimants who move from LA property x to LA property y within the same LA, would it be sufficient for the Housing Dept to notify the HB dept of all “Pensioner” customers’ change of addresses, without there being a separate requirement on the pensioner? and

    (b) if that answer is “yes”, could the same view be taken where direct payment is made to a private landlord, and the landlord owns both property x and property y and the claimant moves from one property to the other? and

    (c) what would be the verification implications of any of these arrangements, particularly if nothing is received from the customer which would confirm/declare occupancy in order to satisfy s130(1)(a) SSCBA 1992?

    3. I’ve had responses from both Housing Benefit Security Division and BFI. In short, their answer to both questions in paras 2(a) and (b) regarding whether or not it would be sufficient for the landlord to inform the HB section of the change of address, is no it would not be sufficient.

    4. The main area of concern would be if the HB section accepted automatically that that claimant had a new residency on the basis of the landlord’s word that that was so. At its most basic, other information is needed from the claimant in order for HB entitlement to be established at the new address, such as whether or not other people are living there. But the fundamental point is that regard needs to be given to the security of the system:

    4.1. it might not be unreasonable to assume that the LA should be able to notify itself of a change of address, but doing so might give opportunities for fraud within the LA – put another way, procedures should not place LA staff at greater risk of being accused of fraud than is currently the case;

    4.2. no doubt most private landlords are fine upstanding citizens, but there are cases where the honesty of the landlord might not be what it should be. Accepting the landlord’s word alone would surely widen the scope for fraud.

    5. Regarding the issue in para 2(c), there are no verification implications if we adhere to “no” as the answer to paras 2(a) and (b). Our position is that it seems entirely reasonable to conclude that the claimant him/herself must tell the LA that s(he) has changed address under s130(a) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.

    #2118
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I’ve been trying to find some legal basis for the DWP’s advice, or for an alternative view as the case may be. I was trying to establish the precise anatomy of an elephant and what it would take to shoot one dead, rather than merely stun it.

    Paragraph 2 of Schedule 7 to the CSPSSA 2000 seems to say that once you have made a decision that someone has no entitlement to HB on the basis of their circumstances on a given date, any subsequent change of circumstance cannot bring them back into entitlement without another claim being made. The drafting of paragraph 2 appears to contemplate such decisions only being made on initial consideration of a new claim, rather than later when there has been a chcnage of circumstance, but I would have thought that the words “decision on a claim” and “at that time” could be taken in the context to mean either when the claim is first decided, or later when you are dealing with a supersession. This is supported by the definition of the term “relevant decision” as including a superseding decision: see para 1 of the Schedule.

    The implications, I think, are as follows:

    – If you know that the claimant has moved out of their home, but you have no reason to think that they have moved to another one where they would still have some entitlement, you make a superseding decision to the effect that there is no HB from the appropriate day (whenever that might be – I’m not about to exhume that argument here). A new claim is then required if the claimant subsequently resurfaces at a later date: having been nil-entitled once, the claimant does not have a dormant life-time award that can be reactivated by an advantageous change: the elephant is dead.
    – The above reasoning also applies to changes in financial circumstances and, indeed, the claimant’s own death.
    – But the council might have been premature in shooting the elephant: unknown to the council, the claimant did in fact still qualify for HB at the time. In these circumstances, the shooting of the elephant could be “revised” (or appealed) to make it so that it never happened. The un-shot elephant would then be superseded in a less life-threatening way instead.

    – Alternatively, when a claimant moves out, the council might have reason to believe that he or she will still be entitled to HB somehere else in the same area: the amount of rent might be the only thing that has changed. In these cases, the council might decide that it is prudent to tranquilise the elephant before approaching it (suspension); but it is only sleeping, it isn’t dead. The advantageous change rule will apply: if the elephant will be bigger when it wakes up, the extra food has to reach the zoo within a calendar month or the elephant will only start to grow from the date when the food is delivered.

    At this point, the metaphor is getting out of control, so I’ll leave it there.

    P.S. OK, just read that back and for the avoidance of doubt I am saying that the restriction on advantageous changes only applies when the new rent is higher than the old one: if you have a sleeping elephant that will be smaller when it wakes up, the elephant can easily be made to barf up the excess food before you allow it back into the enclosure (or in other words, you only de-suspend up to the level of the new rent). There would be no time limit as such, because entitlement is going down. In these acses, there is no interim period of nil entitlement as DWP seems to imply.

    #2119
    Mark
    Participant

    Many thanks to Ian and Julian for pursuing this one so well with the Adelphi. I hadn’t noticed the DWP’s implication that all changes of address within an area would be advantageous changes – but I certainly don’t agree that it is true. Peter’s analysis is far more preferable.

    I would like to take (slight) issue with Peter though over when something is an advantageous change and if I remember rightly it was raised by someone else in an earlier thread. The key thing for me is not whether the rent is higher at the new address – it is whether the benefit is higher. For example:

    A claimant was getting HB of £100 based on a Claim related rent of £100 and an actual rent of £120.

    He moves to a new address where the actual rent is £150 – but the Claim Related Rent is £95 and the HB is also £95.

    I would say that this is not an advantageous change because their HB entitlement has gone down even though their rent has gone up. Therefore, it does not matter when the change of address was notified.

    Obviously, this means that Rent Allowance cases can become a bit complicated. In certain scenarios we will not know whether something is an advantageous change until the Rent Officer decision has been received. I don’t even want to think about the implications for various LA’s software.

    The problem also exists for CTB. If CTB is higher at the new address than the old then this is an advantageous change. Therefore, if the change is notified late the CTB entitlement should remain unchanged until the notification happens. Therefore, you would be paying the old CTB amount to the new C/Tax account. Dammit!

    #2120
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    Peter and Mark – would you mind if I were to copy your contributions to DWP ? I think this is so crucial and whichever method is chosen has such different outcomes.

    What am I going to tell our staff ? What are you telling yours ?

    #2121
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Julian: no objection to DWP seeing my comments.

    Mark I agree: I was hasty to assume that higher rent always = higher HB, it’s the entitlement that matters.

    #2122
    Mark
    Participant

    Julian – send it all. You may like to point out the obvious to them – that this will be an issue for all claims from April 2004.

    #2123
    Mark
    Participant

    In my previous post I argued that an advantageous change of circumstances is one where the amount of HB or CTB payable is higher at the new address than the old. I also pointed out, as many of us have come to realise, that this creates some bizarre administrative nightmares. I have now started to wonder whether it is even worse than I had thought.

    Is my definition of an advantageous change correct? Well – in any case where there is no change of address I am quite happy with it. We are all used to dealing with various advantageous change scenarios and despite the anomalies the rules are workable.

    But now I am having some doubts about Change of address cases. D&A Reg 8(3)(c) is where the “decision is advantageous to the claimant” bit comes from when dealing with supersessions – but there is no definition in that regulation as to what this means. D&A Reg 17(2) does contain a definition of an advantageous change but only for the purposes of appeals and revisions. It does not directly apply to reg 8 too.

    So here’s the problem. Look back at the example I gave in my earlier posting. At the old address the claimant has to pay £20 per week on top of his HB to pay his full rent (i.e. £120 actual rent minus £100 HB). But when he moves to the new address he has to pay £55 per week on top of his HB to pay his full rent (i.e. £150 actual rent minus £95 HB).

    So isn’t it a bit odd to say that the change of address was “advantageous” and that D&A Reg 8(3)(c) kicks in. Overall, the claimant is worse off by £35 p/w than they were before. I don’t think it would be reasonable to look at “non-financial” factors in deciding whether something is advantageous or not (e.g. his new home is gorgeous and the old one was crumbling) – so where does this leave us? Do we have to rethink what advantageous means?

    #2124
    Mark
    Participant

    OK – in my first example I said the change wasn’t advantageous anyway but you get the idea! Scenarios where HB goes up but the shortfall between HB and actual rent increases is what I’m talking about.

    #2125
    Anonymous
    Guest

    D&A Reg 8(5) seems to tie Reg 8 to the definition of an advantageous change in Reg 17(2). But the drafting is slightly vague, I think: an advantageous change for Reg 8 purposes only “includes” those listed in Reg 17(2), and Reg 17(2) itself in turn only lists things that are “included”. So it’s not exhaustive.

    So to develop Mark’s point further:

    If the maximum rent for the new property comes out higher than the old one, that would seem to be advantageous because it is clearly included in Reg 17(2) eve though, in absolute terms, the claimant has more rent to pay.

    But it seems that a council could go beyond that and argue that a claimant whose maximum rent is lower at the new property but whose net contribution is lower still (downsizing to escape a size restriction, perhaps) has also had an advantageous change. This argument would be possible because Regs 8(5) and 17(2) do not seem to rule out the possibility of council coming up with other examples of advantageous changes o top of the ones listed in those Regs.

    Obviously, ones first instinct is to say that it would be extremely harsh ever to treat a reduction in HB as an advantageous change. But I think there are circumstances where it might work to the claimant’s advantage. In particular, if the change of address comes to the council’s attention late and there would be an overpayment if you just looked at the amount of HB in isolation; but viewed in the context of the claimant’s net contribution to the rent, the change is actually advantageous and therefore takes effect from the week in which it is reported. Hey presto! No overpayment. Anyone want to test that theory by putting some numbers to it?

    #2126
    Mark
    Participant

    Peter – I was too hasty to dismiss the relevance of 17(2). You are quite right about 8(5). This does however mean that there is a valid argument for amending the regulations to avoid the advantageous with an overall shortfall trap.

    Your second point is certainly worth considering for any advisor that fancies trying it but I doubt very much that any LA would head in this direction. Things are complicated enough already!

    I didn’t mention it earlier but can I also point out that on a straightforward “benefit up or down” version of whether something is advantageous that different results can be achieved in HB than CTB. I know this problem already exists in CTB for cases where single person occupancy discounts are retrospectively awarded but this is another set of circumstances where the relevant dates in HB can be different to CTB.

    #2127
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    Have forwarded peter and marks additional comments, as I suggested I might, to DWP. Have not forwarded the newer additional comments as they were made after I had sent it off. I will see what the reply says and raise again if the newer comments raise still further questions.

    In addition I have also resurrected the reg 68B versus reg 68 arguments because I’m still not happy that it will work along the lines of the policy intention regarding overpayments AND I have raised the Rent Officer decision effective date issue again, also because of the increased potential for OP’s.

    I will keep you all posted

    #2128
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    I said I’d keep you posted. reply:

    [i:4cfed83d48]There’s a lot going on in these two documents. The first, on the wretched
    elephant issue, I’m inclined to stick with the advice that has been given
    out by us before on the issue, because I do not think there is anything we
    can possible add, given the fact that we’ve received advice from lawyers,
    and procedural advice both from HB Security and BFI.

    I confess to having some difficulty appreciating why this is causing so much debate – in IS/JSA (to which in my mind HB/CTB is moving slightly closer with the abolition of benefit periods), the fundamental issue about
    notification of a change of circs is whether the claimant has provided
    sufficient information regarding that change of circs to satisfy the
    decision maker that following that change, entitlement still exists. And the
    obligation is upon the claimant to do that.

    If you have someone telling you that they’ve changes address, I should have thought that the majority will tell you where they have gone or intend to go to. If they don’t then the Decision Maker must surely decide whether or not they want to clarify the issue or whether they consider that the claimant has simply gone and that therefore the claim closes down.

    Regarding the reg 68/68B issue – we’ll give this more thought, but the issue has already been raised by LAA reps in the DWP/Pension Credit Working Group. I’ve had a first glance through your examples, and they seem right, but we’ll look at them again.

    A bit of background. We approached our lawyers on this one to check our
    interpretation and they were adamant that the AIF and Savings Credit,
    although connected, have separate legal identities and therefore changes in them should be treated under Reg 68/68B respectively. So, you might say “end of story”, except that I (and my colleagues) recognise that there’s lots to be said for clarity purposes in tying the two together (administratively easier, less complex etc etc). The problem is that this those factors are often not enough to sway senior officials, lawyers and especially Ministers that a regs change should be made. So, I was sympathetic to LAA arguments but considered that I needed to do more work to gather the necessary ammunition to deploy in favour of change. That (among 9,000 other things) I’m working on at the moment with the help of the LAA reps.

    However, your work seems to have given me a helping hand in that it does point out yet more difficulties with the interaction of the changes in the AIF/SC on the HB/CTB case, for which thanks.

    What’s next? Well, there isn’t going to be a regs change in the near future
    – DWP is straining under the weight of regulatory change at the moment, and this applies across the board, not just in HB/CTB. Nonetheless, we intend to negotiate with our lawyers to see when they envisage the earliest date would be for regs changes. We’ve given an undertaking that we will revisit the Handbook and expand those sections which need further clarification. How quickly we can do this is subject to other workload pressures, but I think sometime in November would be the likeliest date (taking into account printing times etc).[/i:4cfed83d48]

    So what next for us ?

    Well I’m reasonably happy about the change of address issue in that we have a way (or several) of dealing with it.

    I’m still extremely uncomfortable about using reg 68 for the AIF.

    How can we possibly apply the beneficial change rules if there is no duty upon the customer to notify changes in income to us?
    How can we contact TPS in all OP cases, of which there will be many, to see if it was TPS’s fault ?
    How can we really attribute any OP to customer error if customer has a month to notify TPS ?
    How do we explain that the initial change in HB (could be up or down) is due to an AIF change (old SC and new AIF) and the second change is due to the new SC (new SC and New AIF).
    Do we count this as two changes of circumstances for MIS purposes?
    And anything else I might of forgotten !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I AM REALLY LOVING THIS.

    No reply on the rent officer stuff yet (I did send it at a different time I don’t think it was deliberately missed on the reply on the other issues)

    I’ll keep you posted

    #2129
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    [b:d9c0c35bb3]Sent this to DWP yesterday:[/b:d9c0c35bb3]

    [i:d9c0c35bb3]Can you just confirm something for me ?

    Assume I have a case where the Pensioner is not in receipt of PC they are however receiving HB of based on an income of £100.00 per week.

    In July 2004 they apply for and receive Pension Credit, and we are notified on 07 July 04 that they have an assesed income figure of £100.50 and savings credit of £5.00 and that this is awarded from 06 oct 03. Would I be expected to input an AIF of 100.50 from 06 Oct 03 calculate an overpayment (whose fault is it by the way) and then make a decision that the SC should only be included from 12 July 04.

    If the answer to this is yes, not only is it madness there will be an enormous number of VERY unhappy pensioners out there. From experience I know that no matter how accurate we or the pensioner are in the assessment of income TPS’s AIF will be different to the income we currently use.

    Is this really what ministers want ?[/i:d9c0c35bb3]

    [b:d9c0c35bb3]Reply Received today:[/b:d9c0c35bb3]

    [i:d9c0c35bb3]The short answer is that is not what was envisaged. The regs 68/68B issue is
    now becoming so entangled that I need to draw breath and go back to the
    lawyers and ask them for a reconsidered opinion – not least to get correct
    the further guidance I mentioned yesterday.

    The problem is that the lawyer who gave the original advice upon which our
    advice to LAs is on leave (and has been for some time), due to return on
    Monday. No doubt then there will be a pile of work for him. However, I’ll
    approach my boss to arrange a meeting with the lawyers asap next week.

    Either that or I’m going to retire permanently to my local boozer.[/i:d9c0c35bb3]

    [b:d9c0c35bb3]I take it from that response that we are getting somewhere!

    Mark – do you feel any better ? [/b:d9c0c35bb3]

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