Rent officer arrangements

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    The benefit period has ended but the requirement to refer to the RO still exists. So what do we do next year in practice? For example, the claim will be running, we refer to the RO. I see no legislative power to suddenly revise the entitlement to a lower rent based on an interim or indicative figure. Nor do I see any right to stop payment if the RO decision is delayed. Presumably we will need to change from a forward date to stop any overpayment but how does that fit with the subsidy requirements on RO referral(bearing in mind at least one local authority is currently involved in a judicial review with the S of S on this very point)?

    Ideas and suggestions welcome!


    Just a suggestion, couldn’t we refer to ROS in advance of when we need the new decision (I think this what we are doing now sometimes) and as long as we do actually get the new decision use from the date we need to. This should avoid interims/payments on account/indicatives etc or revising to a lower figure.
    Sounds so simple it can’t be right! I am always more interested about what will/should happen in practice rather than theoretically possible things somebody would want us to do but we can’t.
    Looking forward to other opinions!

    Julian Hobson

    Does the wording of 12A(1)(d) and (e) allow an advance application for a determination to be made AND if it doesn’t so you do it at 53 weeks what is the effective date determined by the new reg 8(12) of the D&A regs? It looks as though an OP could occur in all cases, possibly unrecoverable. No power to withhold, suspend, terminate, make interims or anything else actually exists.

    For completeness the amendments are in SI 1338/2003 at reg 11 and 24 respectively.

    I’m with peter – qualification, bridgenorth judicial review etc shouldn’t this have been absolutely obvious and critical. Another can of worms. Who is going to raise this one with DWP? Any Takers ?


    I contacted the DWP by email on Tuesday to ask from what date a new rent officer decision should be used in the calculation of maximum HB following a referral under the new ‘every 52 weeks’ arrangement. I got an immediate reply which confirmed that ‘the new Rent Officer’s determination is now a change of circumstance that takes effect from the benefit week that follows the end of the same 52-week period that has prompted the further referral’. I replied to the DWP asking what provisions there were for the overpayments that were created where the maximum HB went down as it would be impossible to recovery such an overpayment. Not suprisingly, I haven’t yet had a response which gives the impression that they have not thought about it!!


    As I understand it, RO referrals can be sent before the 52 week period has elapsed as long as you can show the RO that the previous decision would have been used in the HB assessment for a period not less than 52 weeks. Obviously the RO would also check their records for the details of the current decision.

    Under the new 52 week arrangement, if it is to be treated as a change of circumstances, there is nothing that suggests a change of circumstances can not be reported in advance and a new decision requested in advance.

    I know that at present all our referrals for review claims are sent anything up to 6 weeks in advance of their review date and we have had no problems in obtaining decisions.

    We intend carrying on doing this under the new arrangement.

    Julian Hobson

    Michelle – I think the words in 12A(2)(d)and (e) make it clear that the referral must be made after 52 weeks have elapsed, thids wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except Regulation 8(12) of the D&A regs means that the effective date of the decision will be the first day following the 52 week period irrespective of whether Decision goes up or down.


    This is the reply I have received from the DWP regarding referrals:

    Following the abolition of benefit periods it was necessary to develop a new process that would ensure an annual rent officer referral. The process needed to be pinned to an anniversary date relevant to rent allowance cases where a referral is required. The application date was chosen as the earliest date in that process.

    As you are aware a case is excluded from further referral for 52 weeks from the date of the original or previous referral. Although this does have inherent difficulties as you say, if the referral were to be made in advance it would effectively bring forward the annual referral year on year.

    The Rent Officer determination is no longer tied to a fixed period award of benefit because payment of HB is now effectively open ended. Without a provision to halt the payment of benefit because a new determination is needed a subsequent determination has to take effect through a superseding decision. As the amount of the new determination would not be known payments of benefit will therefore continue at the existing rate, using the existing Rent Officer determination until the new determination is actioned. The new Rent Officer’s determination will take effect from the first day following the end of the same 52-week period that has prompted the further referral. Any arrears would be paid or overpayment calculated depending on the determination’s affect on benefit entitlement.

    We are further refining the regulations with effect from the date of the April 2004 changes. Where an increase in the Rent Officer determination results in an increase in benefit in cases where the rent is paid weekly, or in multiples of a week, the increase will take effect from the first day of the benefit week in which the first day following the end of the 52 week exclusion falls. Where a decrease in the Rent Officer determination results in an decrease in benefit the decrease will take effect from the first day of the benefit week following the date the determination was received by the local authority for all claimants. This is designed to avoid overpayments.

    I hope this will be of use to you. We will be issuing a circular shortly on the new system of Rent Officer

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