SSSC or Over Accommodated/Unreasonably High Rent

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  • #46245
    sjh73
    Participant

    One of our customers who is subject to the 'bedroom tax' with effect from 01.04.13 has written to us to request 'a copy of the council’s policy and decision making procedures in relation to referring a socially housed claimants rent to the rent officer'.

     

    Reading between the lines I think the claimant is considering that they may be better off if tenure type OHA was applied to their claim and consequently the maximum rent was decided by the rent officer (as opposed to being restricted by the bedroom tax).

     

    My questions are as follows:

     

    Are LA's still able to refer HA rents to the rent office if the claimant is over accommodated or the rent is unreasonably expensive?

     

    If not, where in legislation does it say the HA rents can no longer be referred to the rent officer?

     

    If HA rents can still be referred to the rent office what are other LA's using as their criteria? In previous years we had set in our procedures that a certain amount of rooms and/or level of rent would have to be met before we would considering referring the rent to the rent officer – in most cases these levels were high enough that no referral was ever needed and the claimants still fell within the HA scheme to the claimants benefit.

     

    Any/all input and views welcome.

    #130478
    chris harvey
    Participant

    The requirement to refer over accommodated HA’s to the Rent Officer has been removed from April. The rules on referring unreasonably expensive rents are still there.

    #130481
    sjh73
    Participant

    Thanks for your reply, I had just managed to resolve this myself and was about to update this post to let others know.

    I see Schedule 2, paragraph 3, sub-paragraph (2) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 has been amended and no longer includes a reference LA’s to being able to refer HA rents when the dwelling is larger than the needs of claimant and family.

    I also noted the new reg B13 that gives Local Authorities a duty (not discretion) to determine a limited rent where the number of bedrooms in a dwelling exceeds the number of bedrooms to which the claimant is entitled.

    Sorted, thanks for your help.

    #130483
    Anonymous
    Guest

    There is a standard letter doing the rounds text is copied below. Once you respond you will get another standard appeal letter. I think the idea is to clog up the system so it grinds to a halt with letters and appeals.

    Letter appealing against the ‘Benefit Decision Notice’ that informs me of the change to my Housing Benefit payments

    Date

    Your reference

    To whom it may concern

    (add council official, housing association, etc)

    I received your decision letter dated ………………and referenced above that imposed an ‘under occupation charge’, or bedroom tax of 14% / 25%(delete as appropriate)on my existing award of Housing Benefit.

    I consider this unwarranted yet in order to challenge this in the correct way and potentially by way of formal appeal I require further information to be sent to me within 7 days of this letter and the urgency of that is to ensure I have enough time to formulate any such appeal and in full knowledge of the facts of my case within the time allowed;

    I also request the deadline for any such formal appeal be moved to 21 days after I receive the request information below:

    1. A written copy of the Council’s policy and decision-making procedures in relation to referring a socially housed claimant decision to the Rent Officer Service.

    2. A full explanation of how the council decided that the address where I live at

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    has been determined to be a property with the specified number of bedrooms and hence one for which an under occupation charge is to be levied, this too is to include what involvement if any of my landlord ……………………… has in this process.

    Please state by way of covering letter with the requested information any changed deadline date from above with regard to a formal appeal.

    Yours truly

    Add your full name and address

    #130490
    sjh73
    Participant

    Yes, that’s the letter we received – at least i can use the response I drafted to reply to any similar letters.

    #130491
    seanosul
    Participant

    May be wortwhile posting the anonymised reply.

    #130494
    sjh73
    Participant

    In answer to the first question i replied:

    Prior to the 1 April 2013, Schedule 2, paragraph 3, sub-paragraph (2) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 gave local authorities the power to refer Housing Association rents to the Rent Officer for a maximum rent decision where:-

    (a) the claimant occupies a dwelling larger than is reasonably required by the claimant and any others who occupy that dwelling (including any non-dependants of the claimant and any person paying rent to the claimant); or

    (b) the rent payable for that dwelling is unreasonably high.

    With effect from 01 April 2013 Schedule 2, paragraph 3, sub-paragraph (2) has been amended so that a local authority may only refer Housing Association rents to the Rent Officer where:-

    (b) the rent payable for that dwelling is unreasonably high.

    A further amendment to the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 inserted new Regulation B13 (Determination of a Maximum Rent (Social Sector)) with effect from 01 April 2013 – this gave Local Authorities a duty (not a discretion) to determine a limited rent where the number of bedrooms in a dwelling exceeds the number of bedrooms to which the claimant is entitled. A copy of the new regulation is attached to this letter.

    [INSERT COPY OF REG B13]

    In answer to the second question the reply was simply that the information about rooms had been provided by the landlord and is supported by information provided by the claimant in past application forms they have submitted to the LA which detail the number of bedrooms in the property.

    Not sure everyone would want to reply the same way and am willing to hear any suggestions others may have in case more of these letters arrive at our offices.

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