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HB/Housing Costs mess

 

Elliot Kent
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Shelter

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Full service area claimant has been living in a hostel since about September and claimed Universal Credit from when he moved in. His claim included housing costs at LHA rate.

On 1st February, through negotiation with the council and changes in the support provided, the hostel persuaded the LA to begin treating it as exempt accommodation. On 2nd February, he claimed housing benefit.

However housing costs through UC have remained in payment and the LA has refused to deal with the housing benefit claim until the housing costs are sorted out. Housing costs were paid through February and March.

In early April, claimant was evicted from the hostel for non-payment and at this point he informed UC of the re-classification of the hostel on 1st February. UC are still to make any sort of decision about the consequences of this. The helpline has suggested that they probably won’t do anything at all.

How is this situation supposed to play out?

At first glance, the claimant seems to be entitled to HB so I’m not sure how the LA can justify leaving it on ice. As I see it, they should pay out full HB and then UC can recover an overpayment if they want to. I’d be grateful for any other thoughts.

     
HB Anorak
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I agree it’s that way round.  As far as the Council is concerned this claimant should be entitled to full passported HB.  If there is anything wrong at the DWP end, that’s for them to sort out.  Any overpayment of UC will be recoverable if DWP have the gumption to identify one, but that is no concern of the Council’s.  In the absence of any provision saying this claimant is not entitled to HB, he is.

There will presumably be arrears of hostel charges owing equal to the difference between LHA and the full charge.  The Council will probably pay HB to the hostel to that extent, but there is likely to be some spare which ought to go to the claimant.  If I were the Council I would remind the claimant that DWP might come after him sooner or later for the UC overpayment so it might be wise not to spend all the HB arrears at once, but they cannot really stop him.

Doesn’t sound like the Council has made any decision yet, so the claimant cannot apply any pressure through the appeal route.  At this stage he needs to complain until they get round to making a decision.

     
Emmz
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We’ve agreed that the tenancy sustainment service provided by our largest HA makes then exempt accommodation. There have been some negotiations with DWP as well so we are in the process of having the HC removed from UC and claims being made for HB. The TSS is usually only provided for a limited period of time, so my question is what happens when the TSS ends? I realise they are no longer exempt accommodation, but should they stay on hb or should they be telling DWP about the change and we cancel HB? We are not a full service area yet. The guidance talks about moving out of properties and reg 79 applying, but there is no actual move, just a change in the amount of rent charged. Also, is there a list somewhere of the changes a customer is expected to notify UC of? I would expect a decrease in rent to be one of them.

     
HB Anorak
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This is an advantageous change of circumstance in UC so they need to report it before the end of the AP in which it happens. They will then be entitled to a housing element for that whole AP.  Meanwhile HB will end under normal change of circs rules: Monday following day on which TSS ends. There might be an overlap between HB and UC which is actually quite correct here.

     
Emmz
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thanks , I just can’t see many of these customer understanding this process!