Suspension of Housing Benefit due to a dispute between the Lanlord and tenant over repairs

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  • #37988
    engstrom
    Participant

    Two tenants have written to us requesting that we suspend their Housing Benefit claim owing to a dispute with their Landlord regarding the condition of the property and repairs not being carried out.

    We have suspended both claims at the tenants requests though the Landlord is disputing this by saying that under HB regulations we are unable to suspend the claim over an “alleged disrepair dispute”.

    I suspect I may have missed something? Can someone point me in the right direction.

    Can we suspend the claims at the tenants request or not?

    #106943
    Kevin D
    Participant

    Benefit can only be suspended in accordance with DAR 11. Based on the info given so far, nothing in DAR 11 applies so benefit cannot be suspended.

    However, if the clmts were to ask for payments to be made to them instead of the LL, DAR 11 is just wide enough to include that request as being a matter of sufficient substance to THEN mean benefit can be suspended in the event of a dispute about who should get payment. But, you can’t just suspend forever. You will need to gather all the relevant facts and make a firm decision about who you will pay. Almost inevitably, the other party will appeal. That then becomes a matter for the the FtT.

    #106952
    John Boxall
    Participant

    The reccomendation is that rent should only be witheld in exceptional circumstances.

    If you have not done so already you need to be talking to your Housing Advice and Environmental Health teams

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

    Wilkins Micawber, Ch12 David Copperfield

    #106963
    Alex G
    Participant

    As noted in Kevin D’s reply – can I ask who is payment being made to at the moment ? I assume it is the landlord ?

    #106967
    engstrom
    Participant

    Hi Alex, yep payment was being paid to the Landlord.

    On checking DAR 11 I believe we are going to have to reinstate the claims and make them payable to the Landlord though continue to refer the tenants to our Environmental Health department.

    Kevin

    #106992
    dayglow
    Participant

    You may wish to consider Commissioner’s Decision CH/3244/2007, which stated that the onus was on the claimant to show evidence that it is in their overriding interest not to pay the landlord (a copy of which can be found in the caselaw section).

    #106994
    Alex G
    Participant

    Or assuming that there is not two months rent arrears the claimants could just ask for payment direct to them. Presumably they would build up a little arrears as leverage in getting the work done, ?

    #106998
    Kevin D
    Participant

    dayglow’s post had indirectly reminded me the clmt has one further option – s/he can prospectively end HB. However, courtesy of a rather interesting “person affected” UTD, it’s likely the LL would have the right of appeal against the ending of benefit.

    In my view, the outcome of that UTD leads to a potentially intriguing and (presumably) unintended consequence. Imagine: clmt says “I don’t want HB”. LL appeals, saying “As a person affect, I appeal on the grounds there is entitlement and there is no substantive change in circs that results in the clmt ceasing to qualify”. Clmt insists “I don’t want HB”. Tribunal says “Tough, you have to have it”. Legally, the LL surely has at least a chance as the law currently stands.

    #107002
    engstrom
    Participant

    Thanks for all your comments.

    CH/3244/2007 is an interesting read………the onus is clearly on the tenant to provide evidence that it is in their overriding interest not to pay the landlord.

    We could determine that the Landlord is not a fit and proper person to be the recipient of a payment of rent allowance and having two tenants in seperate properties wanting thier claims suspended over alleged disrepairs may indicate that. The Landlord does have a portfolio of other properties though so these two cases alone may not merit such a decision as we would have to choose to amend all the other claims too.

    I have for the moment reinstated the claims and made payments direct to the Landlord. We have of course written to both tenants advising them on this and await their call disagreeing with our decision.

    I’d considered they might just ask for their claims to be cancelled but hadn’t considered your scenario, Kevin.

    Thanks for the advise

    #107022
    ahclarkson
    Participant

    [quote=Kevin D]Benefit can only be suspended in accordance with DAR 11. Based on the info given so far, nothing in DAR 11 applies so benefit cannot be suspended. However, if the clmts were to ask for payments to be made to them instead of the LL, DAR 11 is just wide enough to include that request as being a matter of sufficient substance to THEN mean [b]benefit can be suspended in the event of a dispute about who should get payment.[/b] But, you can’t just suspend forever. You will need to gather all the relevant facts and make a firm decision about who you will pay. Almost inevitably, the other party will appeal. That then becomes a matter for the the FtT.[/quote]

    With particular reference to the highlighted section, I take it that before suspension of HB is considered as an option, it should be established that a dispute over who should get payment is a “valid” one with some basis in an issue of tenant vulnerability, landlord fitness, disrepair, rent arrears or similar, and not (as is often the case) simply both parties shouting “I want the money paid direct to me because it’s mine”? I frequently feel that when I intervene in these situations and proceed with the rigmarole of suspensions, writing to both parties to get “their side of the story”, etc., etc., I am simply exacerbating a common spat, rather than fulfilling my duty of safeguarding tenancies and preventing homelessness!

    #107033
    Alex G
    Participant

    Was payment made to the landlord because of “safeguard” issues or if the tenants were behind with the rent ?

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