Contrived/non-commercial/former non-dep?!

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    A claim was submitted today from a customer to whom I gave assistance in completing the application form. During the new claim interview (as my benefits service terms it), the customer mentioned that she rents from her resident aunt.

    The 19-year-old customer has recently (i.e. July) finished college, and subsequently signed on to Jobseeker’s Allowance. She stated that her reasons for claiming JSA and HB is because, upon leaving college, “all [her] aunt’s benefits stopped”. She could not identify the precise nature of these benefits but from what I can gather I believe them to be Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit. This would suggest that her aunt was in fact her primary carer and therefore that the customer was previously a dependant of hers.

    She has never been required to pay rent at this address prior to the end of her Child Benefit etc., so I assume that this is a family home. Her rent covers use of a bed which she shares with a sibling (in a purely platonic sense, one can only hope!), all utilities and bills, and three meals a day.

    Three alarm bells are ringing:-

    1. On the face of it, the tenancy appears to be contrived by the aunt purely as a means of recouping her lost Child Benefit and Tax Credits. The monies now being demanded from the customer appear to constitute “keep” as opposed to rent – naturally, given the inclusion of meals, this would be a matter for the Rent Officer to decide.

    2. The tenancy is hardly what one would deem commercial. How many people would pay the going rate for a shared room and expect to share a bed with someone who is not their partner?

    3. If there has been a delay between the cessation of Child Benefit and the creation of the tenancy (however tenuous) between landlord and tenant, the tenant will have formerly been, for some period (however brief) a non-dependant of the landlord.

    All three are fairly nebulous areas of suspicion. I am well aware that the first two points are notoriously difficult to prove and also that the third seems somewhat pedantic. Obviously, more information is required from the landlord and tenant, but I would appreciate any advice anyone can offer with regard to coming to a swift decision, one way or another.

    Many thanks,

    John Boxall

    I remember a case involving someone who had the spare room except when guests came when he had to sleep on the landing……..

    Basically in order to have an enforceable rent liability I was advised that you needed some kind of ‘exclusive occupation’ of the property – which this claimant clearly doesnt have.

    I would suggest that you have a talk with your Housing Advice team – as I did in my case and they may be able to help out.

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

    Wilkins Micawber, Ch12 David Copperfield


    I would agree this sounds very much like a family arrangement that HB does not cover. You cannot rent “half a room” let alone half a bed.


    Thanks John, Peter. Do either of you know where I might find support for your arguments in the form of regulations, commissioner’s decisions or suchlike? I have a feeling that I will need to quote some legislation in my reply to the customer.


    A number of sections within HB reg 9 may apply in this scenario. As far as caselaw is concerned, have a look at the caselaw index – there is a section for “liability” which you may want to trawl through and see what is most relevant to your circs. These type of cases are unique based on their own set of circumstances so the caselaw can only give you some general principles;

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