Non return of postal interventions – help from landlords

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    We have been the subject of an Ombudsman complaint where we suspended and cancelled the claim after we had no contact from the claimant despite after a number of visits and letters to the property.

    The Ombudsman found that there was no maladministration in this case, but has come back to us to ask us to consider incorporating checks with social landlords into our interventions policy where we get no response to letters and visits before we suspend the claim. The view is that the landlord should have an opinion on whether our claimant still occupies the address.

    Our initial comment on this was that we would not routinely contact landlords because they had a conflict of interests and in many cases would be able to add little to what we already know. Despite this the Ombudsman has asked us to consider introducing this as policy.

    Any thoughts anyone? Does anyone do this already?

    Kevin D

    Without the benefit of the Ombudsman’s thinking, my initial reaction is to disagree with the suggestion. Firstly, it appears to make an assumption that the reason for suspension / termination is occupancy when there could be other reasons (such as a clmt having had an undisclosed CofC that would reduce HB/CTB).

    Secondly, given the scant resources, I doubt that there are many LAs who could do this in all practicality. Further, and to my mind most importantly, the onus is on the clmt – not the LA.

    One further observation…. If an LA was to incorporate such enquiries into its standard procedure(s), it may be worth noting that if the LA FAILED to follow its own procedure and there was any overpayment, it is quite possible for it to be held there was official error by the LA if the procedure was a factor in the overpayment.

    As an aside, it would have been much more interesting if the Ombudsman had commented on the legality of interventions….. 😯



    Why did the Ombudsman look at this case at all?

    From the Ombudsman’s site

    Section 26(6) says that the Ombudsmen may not investigate a complaint where the complainant could seek a remedy by way of an appeal to a tribunal, a Minister or by proceedings in any court of law unless they consider that, in the particular circumstances, it would not be reasonable to expect the complainant to resort to any of those means of seeking a remedy.

    The claimant could have lodged an appeal with TAS. Did you let the Ombudsman know this?


    The Ombudsman’s staff have probably been following the debate about whether termination under D&A Reg 14 is a “relevant decision” attracting a right of appeal, and taken the view that such a right is at best doubtful – and so they decided the issue was in jurisdiction for them. If this is a policy that has been thrashed out at the LGO’s office, rather than a one-off decision on an individual case, expect more complaints on a similar theme unless and until the Commissioners decide whether there is a right of appeal.


    You could be right Peter, but I just can’t accept that there is no right of appeal against the cancellation of a claimant’s benefit.


    The claim had been re-instated in full with no period unpaid so there was no issue to appeal about. However, in the intervening period the claimant’s RSL had commenced possession proceedings. The matter has been dealt with by the ombudsman to consider whether maladministration had occurred leading to the claimant incur costs as well as distress as a result of our actions.


    I think Kevin hit the point. Interventions are bound to result in these complications with the regs as they are.

    two obvious examples.

    1. It’s either time consuming or risky to make occupancy decisions based on non-response to visits/letters. This is because the claimant has every right (without telling the LA) to be temporarily absent for up to 13 weeks (whilst ever the intention to return within 13 wks exists).

    2. It’s a bit odd to dismiss telling the landlord if non-occupancy is suspected. LA’s would expect landlords to tell them. It also sits uncomfortably with the new overpayment rules where landlords will normally be the target for recovery for any o/p after occupancy has ceased. Surely LA’s do not expect to investigate non-occupancy and then recover any O/P without teling the landlord.

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