overpayment due to PC ending

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  • #31919
    Anonymous
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    Hello, I wonder if anyone can help me work through this one?

    We have a client repaying an o/p from a previous tenancy (several tenancies ago it seems) via deductions from on going benefit. The o/p was due to his pension credit being stopped in December 2003, but HB continued to be paid to his landlord until April 2004.
    The client has mental health problems and is very confused. It seems he left the hostel some time before the April date when HB ended (can’t establish when) and was sleeping rough – he had no idea why his PC had ended at the time, nor knew that HB was still being paid to the landlord on the property.

    I am trying to decide whether any of the following could apply –

    a) should the DWP have informed HB that they had cancelled the PC claim, and if so could this be classed as official error? Not sure if the requirement for DWP to provide this data directly existed when PC was new back in 2003?
    b) could the claimant have reasonably been expected to realise that HB was being overpaid if he was by then no longer there and sleeping rough? We have no idea if the landlord had been expected to realise himself that the tenant had left – would have expected so for a hostel. Also understand that the landlord is no longer around any more 😉 anyway, hence recovery from the tenant.

    Any suggestions that might help reduce the o/p would be welcome! He is repaying the debt at the maximum ÂŁ9.90pw, which is proving a huge strain on his finances and causing arrears on the current tenancy. Efforts to get this reduced have failed so far.

    #89265
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Request a statement of reasons from the LA asap 😉

    Meanwhile, get in touch with the hostel, find out when the tenancy ended, if there is any credit on his rent account and if they can help you establish the sequence of events.

    (Edit – for clarification, the SOR loophole is due to be closed in a few weeks. Assuming an SOR has not previously been provided for the termination/overpayment decision in April 2003, this would enable you to ressurrect the appeal rights for that decision. You would have two weeks from the date the SOR is issued to submit an appeal. Once the appeal is accepted, the LA can look at everything again, consider underlying entitlement and consider who the overpayment should be recoverable from (the hostel may be a target, for example). The aim is not necessarily to get to a tribunal, just to allow the LA to look at the decision again outside of the normal maximum time limit for appealing.)

    #89266
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I fully agree with Michael, but there are some more takes on this. If the HB was paid to the landlord, were all the necessary notices fully comnpliant with R(H)6/06? If they were not the LA you should revisit it as a matter of course. If they don’t, then you could get an appeal before a tribunal as an in time appeal as the clock only starts to run once the proper decision notices are issued.

    The duty to disclose a change of circumstances is not an unqualified one despite the restrictive nature of the Court of Appeals ruling in B v Secretary of State [reported as R(IS)9/06]. Much will depend on the insrtuctions given to the claimant (see Hooper v Secretary of State [reported as R(IB)2/07]

    Reg 69(6) of the HB (Persons Who Have Attained the Qualifying Age for State Pension Credit) Regs provides:
    (6) A person on housing benefit who is also on state pension credit must report–
    (a) changes to his tenancy, but not changes in the amount of rent payable to a housing authority;
    (b) changes affecting the residence or income of any non-dependant normally residing with the claimant or with whom the claimant normally resides;
    (c) any absence from the dwelling which exceeds or is likely to exceed 13 weeks.

    “person on state pension credit” means a person in receipt of state pension credit;

    The question arises as to whether or not a person once in receipt of state pension credit must report the fact that he no longer receives it or whether that duty is down to the pensions service. It is arguable that is is down to the pensions service as Reg 92 does make forwarding information mandatory

    Reg 60(3) provides

    (3) Where the change of circumstance is that the claimant’s state pension credit is reduced and in consequence the rate of housing benefit payable to the claimant reduces–
    (a) in a case where the claimant’s state pension credit is reduced because the claimant failed to notify the Secretary of State timeously of the change of circumstances, the change shall take effect from the first day of the benefit week from which state pension credit was reduced; or
    (b) in any other case the change shall take effect from the first day of the benefit week next following the date on which–
    (i) the local authority receives notification from the Secretary of State of
    the reduction in the amount of state pension credit; or
    (ii) state pension credit is reduced,

    There appears to be nothing specific in the Regs about the termination of state pension credit (cf Reg 88(3)(d) of the main HB Regs which provides:)

    (3) The duty imposed on a person by paragraph (1) does not extend to changes in–

    (d) in the case of a claimant on income support an income-based jobseekers allowance or an income-related employment and support allowance any circumstances which affect the amount of income support , an income based jobseeker’s allowance or an income-related employment and support allowance but not the amount of housing benefit to which he is entitled, other than the cessation of that entitlement to income support or an income based jobseeker’s allowance.

    It seems to me therefore, that the termination of an award of pension credit can only be accounted for by construing Reg 60(3) as including the reduction of an award of pension credit to zero, given that there is no equivalent in the over pensionable age regs of Reg 88(3)(d) of the main HB Regs.

    On that interpretation you may well have no overpayment as the date of the change is the date you were notified by the pensions service

    #89267
    Anonymous
    Guest

    …you might still have an overpayment for the period after he left the hostel though, which certainly would be a notifiable change. Good luck with this!

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