Change of address…..again!

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  • #2130
    Mark
    Participant

    Julian – you are a star!

    #2131
    Anonymous
    Guest

    [b:a03247dfd4]Result![/b:a03247dfd4]

    #2132
    lizc
    Participant

    😯 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! ❗

    #2133
    Mark
    Participant

    Right – I’ll go first. I disagree almost entirely with the DWP.

    My view (for what it’s worth) is as follows:

    1) Assuming that there is no gap in occupation between the old and new address a move from one address to another within an LA’s area is not an end of liability. It is a change in liability – and if the benefit is the same at the old property as the new then it is not even a change.

    2) The normal rules about changes being advantageous or disadvantageous apply to changes of address within an LA’s area in just the same way as they do to other changes.

    3) To say that whether we consider a move from one address to another as a “change of circumstances” depends on when it is notifed is plain silly.

    4) The date of notification of a change of address within an LA’s area only matters if more benefit is payable for the new address than the old. You have to look at HB and CTB seperately in this regard.

    The DWP have probably realised that if my position is correct it is also administratively complex – particularly in combined HB/CTB cases. Therefore, they daren’t put it forward. Instead, they have come up with an unsatisfactory cop-out designed to placate LA’s who still want to end entitlement altogether when people move out.

    Discuss!

    #2134
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Agree with Mark.

    Whoever wrote the DWP reply seems to me to be thinking in the old way: s/he hasn’t got used to the implications of no benefit periods.

    The reply does not even stand up to its own logic (which I don’t agree with in any case). The official argues that entitlement must end if the claimant no longer occupies the dwelling, but surely the whole point of an in-area move is that the claimant [b:54ab1289e6]does [/b:54ab1289e6]occupy a dwelling at all times? All that’s changed is, usually, the amount of rent (and perhaps not even that).

    Therefore the bit about retrospectively terminating and offsetting underlying entitlement does not apply even if you accept the rest of the reply.

    Another thing: [i:54ab1289e6]”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”[/i:54ab1289e6]

    I don’t agree. The special circumstances rule only applies to [b:54ab1289e6]advantageous[/b:54ab1289e6] changes. There is no legal basis whatsoever for using the special circumstances rule to decide between ending or adjusting benefit.

    #2135
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I know I’m joining the party late, but can anyone comment on this.
    If a customers’ rent or council tax decreases as a result of their move. we intend to treat it as a non beneficial change. As far as we are aware, there is no time limit on customers having to report this type of change. and so someone could tell us in October 04 that they had moved in October 03. As long as their HB at their new address was lower, we think we could pay them from October 03 at their new address, even though we had continued paying them at their original address.
    On a connected point, we also originally thought that any overpayment at their first address maight be reduced by offset benefit from their new address, but the latest Overpayment Guidance manual says this should not be done.
    Any thoughts on this matter would be helpful, as we are struggling to give our staff clear and meaningful instruction on what to do with this type of occurence, and which Regulations they might be using to do it!

    #2136
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    Can you refer me to the guidance that you refer to ?

    #2137
    Anonymous
    Guest

    We received a new guidance manual last week, specific to overpayments. It is called, amazingly, Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit Overpayments Guide, and has been issued by the DWP. It follows the usual guidance format.
    Section 3.5 deals with underlying entitlement, and section 3.59 relates to underlying entitlement for a change of address.
    Hope this is useful.
    Anne Newbold

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