Paid to claimant in error

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    Hi – what would other authorities do when a mandated claim to landlord is received but the initial couple of payments are made to claimant in error? (Input error as staff member forgot to make landlord payee). Surely the landlord could approach the tenant to pay the rent up-to-date, future pyts would change to go direct to him and everybody’s happy.

    However, this landlord is not happy, has written a letter of complaint and contacted his local MP.

    What do others feel would be the best advice to give or action to take in this instance?


    It is a difficult one. My instinct is that the claimant has been paid their HB and there is nothing in the regs to allow you to, say, create an overpayment for the claimant and pay HB for the same period to the landlord.

    However, I was reading an Ombudsman decision with very similar circumstances just yesterday and the Ombudsman found mal-administration and awarded the landlord an amount of compensation equivalent to the HB that should have been sent to him. You could look at adopting a similar approach.


    Can you tell me what Ombudsman decision it was or where I can find it?

    I also feel that the tenant has been paid their HB and so should pass it to their landlord. They are, after all, still living in the property and I am assuming wish to remain in property.


    Mr and Mrs Taylor complained that
    a council failed to act on information
    given by them that their tenant –
    who had applied for housing benefit –
    was in rent arrears for more than
    eight weeks.

    2. The Housing Benefit Regulations
    required that if rent was eight weeks or
    more in arrears, a council had to pay the
    rent direct to the landlord, except where
    it was in the overriding interests of the
    claimant not to make direct payments.

    What happened

    3. Mr and Mrs Taylor explained to the
    council that the lack of rental
    payments was causing them hardship,
    and that they would have to ask their
    tenant to leave in order to secure a
    tenant who was able to make rental
    payments. Despite the threat of
    eviction the council decided not to
    make direct payments. It told the
    Ombudsman there were delays caused
    by a new computer system and that
    every new tenant would have been
    eight weeks in arrears.

    4. The council determined the claim
    and sent benefit cheques to the tenant.
    Mr and Mrs Taylor continued to receive
    no rent. When the tenant was

    17 weeks in arrears she left the flat
    without notice and without leaving
    any forwarding address.

    5. The council accepted that once the
    tenant was known to be eight weeks or
    more in arrears with her rent it should
    have made arrangements to pay the
    landlord directly. The council agreed
    to pay £400 to Mr and Mrs Taylor to
    cover the period when payments
    should have been made directly to
    them and for their time and trouble
    in pursuing the complaint.

    (Report 98/C/1345)



    1. Ms Raven complained about the way a
    council dealt with a claim for housing
    benefit from her tenant, Mrs Starling.
    A significant element of the complaint
    was that the council did not comply with
    Ms Raven’s request to make payment
    direct to her.

    2. Mrs Starling was more than eight weeks
    in arrears with her rent. In the
    circumstances, the council was obliged
    to make payment direct to the landlord.
    Ms Raven telephoned the council to say
    that Mrs Starling was more than eight
    weeks in arrears and asked that payment
    should be made direct. She confirmed
    this request by fax.

    3. However, the council sent a cheque for
    £1,800 to Mrs Starling. That included
    arrears of housing benefit. Mrs Starling
    left the property, taking the cheque with
    her and owing rent of at least that

    4. The Ombudsman said that failure to pay
    direct to the landlord was
    maladministration. This caused Ms Raven
    financial loss of £1,800.

    5. The Ombudsman recommended that the
    council should pay Ms Raven £1,800
    because of the rent which she did not
    receive, and also £250 for her time and
    trouble in pursuing the complaint.
    (Report 99/B/4581)

    Darren W

    Though both those deal with a situation where the claimant was more then 8 weeks in arrears. Then Regulation 95(1)(b) comes in to force (Circumstance where we must pay the landlord). From what I understand from tigerk, that is not the case here.

    In this situation we are looking at Regulation 96, Circumstances where we may pay the landlord. So though the claimant asked for the payment it is still the LA decision who to pay.

    Kevin D

    Haven’t had time to check for relevance, but payment of HB has been considered in:

    [b:9f2393bc8a]CH/3106/2004[/b:9f2393bc8a] ( )

    [b:9f2393bc8a]R v Fenland DC ex p HALFACREE (1997) EWHC Admin 572 QBD (Bailii)
    R v Liverpool CC ex p ARBOINE (1997) EWHC Admin 1073 QBD (Bailii)[/b:9f2393bc8a]

    I have an inkling that there was a further CD in Info Issue 06/06, but I don’t have an updated CD listing to hand, so I could be mistaken.



    I think you are talking about CH/4108/05.



    Presumably the question of compensation would turn on whether the landlord had actually suffered detriment. It was not clear to me in this case whether the landlord was unhappy because the tenant had not paid up or whether he was just not happy that the LA had not acted on his request. If the landlord got his/her money in the end it is surely a case of “sorry about the mistake but no harm done, eh”? Or am I being naive?


    No, I agree with you Andy to a point.

    From the origional post it appears clear there has been an error, it was not a case that the LA decided not to pay to the LL, they decided to do it then made a mistake.

    I do agree that the issue is the level of loss (if any) that falls to the landlord because of that mistake. If the landlord does get his rent the level of loss may be slight. Perhaps an appology and maybe a £50.00 compensation for time and trouble. If the landlord does not get his money then the compensation could be more.

    Kevin D

    Edit: compiled as the above posts were being posted.

    With regard to the issue of paying the “wrong” party, there is no basis on which HB can be paid twice for the same period.

    If the tenant is still at the property, I’d only consider paying compensation to the extent of an acknowledgement of incovenience and, depending on the facts of the case, legal fees [u:02768222e9]necessarily[/u:02768222e9] incurred. I wouldn’t pay anything for the rent element so long as the tenant’s whereabouts were known to the L/L.

    Darren’s point about it being discretionary to whom HB should be paid to is fine. Normally. But, in this case it is clear the LA decided to pay the L/L, but paid someone else in error. So, I wouldn’t annoy the Ombudsman (or anyone else) by trying to pretend consideration was given to a decision in a way that it clearly wan’t. At an extreme, if the LA claimed that a decision was based on different grounds to those that were ACTUALLY considered, it could be argued that it amounted to perverting the course of justice.



    Not too dissimilar case here:

    Request for payment to landlord. Acknowledged and letter sent confirming payments would be made as requested.

    Between then and the payment going, “pixies” got into the system and ended up sending payment to tenant.

    Tenant takes money and runs!

    In the end we had no option but to put our hands up, admit mistake but explained that HB was due to tenant afterall. “Negotiated” ex-gratia payment as recompense.

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