Liability to pay HB on a bedspace

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    Joanne Ross

    I have a claimant who is currently living in a property with a family,who are his friends. He does not have sole use of any room (ie bedroom), he sleeps in the living room, which is used by the family during normal waking hours. He is charged £60/wk rent, this includes all services and full board. Until he lost his job he made the payments himself.

    I need to clarify if we can pay HB on this claim. 😕


    I don’t see why not. He seems to have a contractual obligation to pay rent. The fact that he doesn’t have his own room shouldn’t stop HB being paid.


    You can certainly pay HB – but the Rent Officer decision is likely to be low.

    Trevor Kenward

    I’d agree you’d have to pay especially if there was evidence of payments made prior to Hb being claimed and that such evidence showed he had a commercial liabilty to pay for his occupancy


    I disagree for the following reasons:

    a) this sounds like a family arrangement not a comercial one
    b) you cannot have an enforceable tenancy for a common space. I doubt any liability under Housing law.
    c) I do not believe this is “rent”; it is arguable it might be services only but are they eligible?.

    Housing Benefit for sleeping on the settee? I wonder if the RO will even agree a valuation.



    a) Even family arrangements can be commercial. But this person is living with friends – not family – anyway.

    b) So what? They are being asked for money, so to doubt that there is actual liability seems a bit strange to me.

    c) Of course it is rent – Reg 12 includes a list of what rent is – including “permission to occupy the dwelling”.

    The RO has to give a valuation – they have no choice.


    I beg to differ.

    a) Of course all arrangements can create a liability. But I doubt it was the intention of the parties to create a legally enforceable contract. I doubt there is even a verbal agreement that would stand up.

    b) being asked for money does not make it rent or create a liability! If you go round to your friends house to watch the football, hand over twenty quid for the drinks etc and fall asleep until the morning ….! The mind boggles.

    c) there is a lot of discussion about “permisson to occupy” e.g. whether a person has the right to do so as a landlord if they are a tenant themselves or the property is mortgaged.

    Finally, what EXACTLY is the RO supposed to value if they turn up to inspect? A living room avalable between what hours? A non-exclusive space on the floor?


    Both Mark & peterdelamothe offer persuasive arguments.

    I’m not going to come down on one side or another, based on thre information we have. I think the crux of the matter is whether there is a an intention to create legal relations. If you decide there is, HB could be paid, but as Mark observes, ROD will be low.


    Let’s take the Rent Officer issue first. I’m assuming we’re in agreement that Reg 3 of the Rent Officer (HB Functions) Order 1997 places a duty on the Rent Officer to give a decision if this case were referred to them. But you seem concerned that the RO may struggle. Perhaps they will. But I’ve certainly seen things like this valued before (inc. a hallway that someone was sleeping in that came back with a claim related rent of £5 p/w). I think that the “night-time” only occupation is a non issue too. Plenty of night shelters won’t let you stay except between the hours of 7pm and 11am – but we’ll all agree I think that HB is payable for them and the RO knows how to value them.

    It is pretty clear that this particular claimant is not a “tenant”. But they certainly sound like a “licensee” – and both the HB definition of “rent” and the Rent Officer Functions Order definition of “tenancy” cover the licensee possibility nicely.

    I still say pay them.



    I don’t know if you’ve seen it but the CPAG guide (p214/5) offers some useful commentary on intention to create a legal liability

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