HB Decision Notices

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  • #20773
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I have noticed that some overpayment decision notices include the following standard statement:

    ‘You will be notified in due course regarding the recovery of the remaining debt.’

    I am concerned about these notices for the following reasons:

    If the LA has not made a decision to recover an overpayment from the landlord, surely the landlord is not a ‘person affected’ and therefore notification is at best inappropriate and at worst a breach of claimant confidentiality.

    I advise WHA’s Housing Management staff to act on the safe side and treat such a notice as a decision to recover from WHA and to appeal if appropriate.

    However, some LAs have refused to consider such appeals as they have not yet decided from whom they want to recover, the landlord is not a ‘person affected’ and therefore has no right of appeal.

    In principle I would agree, however, we have also been in the situation when we have ignored these notices only to later receive an invoice and with the LA arguing that we no longer have a right of appeal, because the decision notice is more than a month old!! One LA we deal with has been known to use both arguments, depending on which suited them best at the time! Heads they win, tails we lose!!

    A reply we received from one LA recently, contained the following statement:

    ‘Could I advise you that any appeal against an overpayment should be made after an invoice has been raised as it may be that the authority will have decided that the overpayment is recoverable from the claimant.’

    Mmmm…I still haven’t found that one in the regulations. I feel honour bound to mention that that same letter upheld our appeal and the HBO in question in every other respect is a shining example of administrative excellence.

    This is certainly not meant to be a LA-bashing session, as I realise it is probably a software problem, in most cases and not a sinister plot to deprive landlords of their appeal rights. However, it does create difficulties for WHA and I daresay other landlords as well. It means that we end up submitting unnecesarry appeal requests in order to protect our rights which in turn creates an unnecessary administrative burden on LAs that have to process the appeals. What is the solution?

    What do other members think? I would welcome some words of wisdom from HB sages. :);):D

    #3445
    Anonymous
    Guest

    If HB is paid direct to a landlord and is later subsequently found to be an o/p then the landlord should be advised that there was an o/p and given all the info about the o/p decision that is appropriate for him/her to have (as a person affected).

    If the o/p wasn’t paid direct to the l/lord then he/she wouldn’t need any of the info and couldn’t be asked to repay it .

    I cannot see any reason why a landlord should not be advised of the LA’s intention to recover the o/p from the landlord, or not as the case may be, when the o/p notice is sent. This is basic good practice – its not rocket science!

    As for telling a l/lord to appeal after having had an invoice – that is bizarre! I would seek a meeting with the LA to get that sorted out.

    It would be wrong for an LA to issue an invoice to a l/lord for an o/p without telling the landlord that that was going to happen in advance – so that the landlord could raise any queries or appeals he/she has first. This saves everyones time and money and again is just good practice.

    Software problems are irrelevant – its easy to type a letter on a PC.

    While making the right decision isn’t always easy its a lot easier (and fairer in the long run because you can put wrong decisions right) than making no decision.

    Dave

    #3446
    Julian Hobson
    Participant

    what a thorny question ? and there is a lot to think about. I think I’ve made my position clear on landlord appeal rights and the question as to whether suich a right exists.

    The real issue here is that IF a landlord can’t appeal against a decision to recover from them, what decision can they appeal against. They can appeal against the parts of any decision that they disagree with (if of course they have any evidence to suggest the decision is wrong) practically speaking I think this would generally relate to issues of rent and occupancy.

    The landlord is a person affected by virtue of reg 3(1)(d) and (e) of the HB&CTB Decision and Appeals regs 2001 and hence are a person affected if they are:

    3(1)(d) – deemed to be the target for recovery in OP cases . or

    3(1)(e) – the decision to be appealed against is made under reg 93 or 94.

    Given the commissioners decision in CH/4943/01 and notwithstanding the fact it is now at the court of appeal, a landlord cannot appeal on the issue of who to recover from. They can appeal on any any other issue and so MUST get a letter advising them that an OP has occured if the decision is made to recover from them.

    IF the landlord does not appeal this decision because they have no reason to dispute that the OP occured then they must pay up if invoiced later, they should not wait for an invoice before appealing.

    If the LA send an OP decision to a L/L and it does not say who the OP is recoverable from, the L/L should assume that the reason it was sent was because the OP is deemed recoverable from them, and they should appeal given the restriction on what they can appeal against.

    If the LA decide not to recover from the L/L then no decision should be sent to the L/L, in respect of the OP decision.

    I suggest however that they are to receive a notice of decision as laid out in Schedule 6 Part I para 1 to 8 that is a decision which revises or supersedes the original decision specified in Part IV. In accordance with Reg 10 of the D&A regs. That would simply say that the HB is now rediced or stopped and the reason why.

    Hopefully the outcome of the Court of Appeal case will include what L/L should be notified of and why AND software suppliers will be expected to sit up and listen.

    Just on the “its not difficult to do letters on PC’s” no its not but I would hasard a guess that your caseload must be quite small ?

    #3447
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Julian …

    Probably above average for an inner London borough.

    Dave

    😉

    #3448
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I mentioned software problems in my original post, because several LAs have told me that they are unable to produce computer generated overpayment notices that are schedule 6 compliant.

    This seems to be a particular problem with the most commonly used software package.

    The main problem with the notices that this (and most other software packages) generate, is that they incapable of producing a notice that gives the reason for the overpayment. At best they give a vague statement that could apply to almost any overpayment; or they give no reason at all.

    Even when a reason is given it is usually only a vague explanation of why there was a need to reassess the claim, for instance statements such as

    ‘claimants circumstances changed’; or,

    ‘income support ended’.

    These statements do not explain why the LA continued to pay benefit to which their claimant was no longer entitled.

    Statements that explain why an overpayment occurred might include:

    ‘claimant did not advise the LA that they had started work’; or,

    ‘claimant advised the LA that they started work, but the LA did not act on the information’ (in which case the LA need to explain that the claimant or other person affected could reasonably be expected to know they had been overpaid (if indeed they could)).

    The second example often occurs when LAs have large backlogs of work, but in most cases the notice will not admit this is the case and ‘persons affected’ have no way of ascertaining from the notice that the overpayment is recoverable.

    This means that in most cases when we receive a computer generated overpayment notice, (unless we already know why the overpayment occurred, tenant moved out or something similar) we need to appeal against the decision, just to get the information we should have received on the original notice.

    This means that we are making numerous (often unnecessary) appeal requests that the (in most cases) already overburdened LA has to process.

    I realise that we have the option of requesting a fuller statement of reasons, but if subsequently we decide that we still want to appeal, this just adds another layer of bureaucracy that we and I would imagine most LAs could do without.

    Some LAs I work with have resolved this problem by typing letters on a PC, but the impression I have from most of them is that this is not such a simple matter. especially in the larger London Boroughs! And any LA that is already under pressure probably does not need the additional workload that all that extra typing produces.

    The letter typing solution is fine where the LA is prepared to concede that their computer generated notices are not schedule 6 compliant, but some LAs argue that they are.

    What do others think?

    Carol

    :D;):P

    #3449
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Members may be interested to know that this subject is also under discussion on Rightsnet’s discussion forum:

    http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forum/housing/531.html

    :16:

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