Overlapping rent liability – reasonable or not?

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    Neil Frazer

    I have got a case which has put me in a dilemma, and I would like some advice.

    One of our claimants moved from a tenancy with a private landlord to a new tenancy with a housing association. On the 12th May 2006 he signed the new tenancy. The first day of his new liability to the housing association was the 16th May. He moved in to his new home on the 19th May. On the 23rd May, he wrote to his old landlord who received the letter on the 25th May. Very kindly, his new landlord accepted the notice with effect from the 23rd May, and the claimant’s liability to his old landlord ends with effect from the 22nd June.

    The claimant has asked us to pay Housing Benefit in respect of his old tenancy for four weeks after he moved.

    I am minded not to do so. This is because it seems clear to me that the claimant did not act promptly to give notice and therefore could easily have avoided being liable for at least part of the period. But of course you could argue that bearing in mind the shortage of HA tenancies in the area, the claimant could hardly have avoided being liable for at least some of the period.

    Of course the test is, could the claimant have reasonably avoided liability for two dwellings. Am I being unreasonable, or does the law support my view?

    All comments and suggestions will be gratefully received. Thank you for your time.


    There is nothing to stop you finding the dual liability reasonable for less than 4 weeks. The regs say “a period not exceeding 4 weeks”.

    This sounds like the sort of case which led to the wording of the reg being changed a few years back, with the insertion of the concept of reasonableness. Previously claimants had to be given the “overlap” if they had the unavaoidable dual liability, regardless of how they got into that position, which was not the policy intention, apparently.

    I would suggest that you get as much information as possible about why he delayed; only then can you decide upon reasonableness in this situation. I do not know if there is any caselaw but I would imagine that if you have done all you can to obtain information from the claimant and he either does not provide it or it does not indicate any good reason for him having delayed, a tribunal would decide that you had acted reasonably.


    Neil, are you perhaps not being a little harsh? The two homes payment could not have been made before the move and the customer sorted out everything within 7 days. If it is similar to London, new tenants have to move in to permanent accommodation almost immediately and they have a lot to do, particularly if it is their first real “home”.

    I think I would tend to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt in such circs unless there were other compelling resons not to do so.



    Personally I’d look at the first date that he could have notified his old landlord (e.g. the date on which he signed his new tennancy agreement), and take the four week overlap from that date. If this is less than four weeks, then thats the time that they should get the overlapping benefit for.

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