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Housing Benefit Claim Form - Claimant Lacks Capacity to Sign Declaration

 

ErinBrokovich
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Housing Team - Bespoke Supportive Tenancies Ltd

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I work for a small housing association and we specialise in providing supported accommodation for tenants around the UK.

The problem is, that our client group often lack the capacity to sign the housing benefit claim form themselves, often being referred to us by LA social services.

Our housing officers submit the HB claim forms in these circumstances.

We have a recent case whereby such a claimant moved into a property, and over a short period of time, we had to have her move as the accommodation was unsuitable for her needs.

She has since moved on, and housing benefit have refused to accept the claim because we submitted it online (our usual practice) and she had not signed it (there was no legal appointee - the best interests process/mental capacity process had just started. Though our claimant is ‘‘liable for the rent’‘, we also have an eligible service charge element .

Can anyone suggest any way forward with this.  Is a refusal to accept a claim in these circumstances contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act ? as our claimant retains liability for the debt, however in the circumstances of this case she is now unlikely, on mental health grounds, to sign a declaration retrospectively.

We have had problems in the past with this though, and so all feedback will be received thankfully.

 

     
HB Anorak
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benefits consultant/trainer, hbanorak.co.uk, east london

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The Council can appoint someone to act for the purpose of the HB claim, even if they are not appointed to do anything else on that person’s behalf.  The Council might be uneasy about the landlord being the appointee because there can occasionally be conflicts of interest.  I think the days are gone now where HB officers think that all landlords wear top hats and should be obstructed at every turn, but there can be issues - for example around recovery of HB overpayments where there is often a dispute about whether it is recoverable from the landlord or the claimant.

There is no specific legal requirement for an HB claim to be signed by anyone - it just needs to be “properly completed” and it is up to the Council to decide whether that requirement is met.

I would suggest starting off by asking to be the appointee and offering to make guarantees about overpayments if it will make them happy.

     
ErinBrokovich
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Housing Team - Bespoke Supportive Tenancies Ltd

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Thank you for the information. Very helpful.

Regards,

     
nevip
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welfare rights adviser, sefton council, liverpool

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Furthermore, landlords can hold tenancies on trust for those who lack capacity (see Prince v Hammersmith – where the claimant was a minor and thus - in England -  couldn’t, as a matter of law, hold a legal estate in land).  And, even if a claimant cannot be liable for rent under HB regulations she can treated as liable under s7 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, or the common law doctrine of necessaries.  There is case law on this, which I have successfully used at tribunal in the past.

      [ Edited: 25 May 2018 at 10:59 pm by nevip ]
ErinBrokovich
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Housing Team - Bespoke Supportive Tenancies Ltd

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Thank you, very useful response.

     
Dan Manville
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Mental health, Wolverhampton CC Welfare Rights

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Nevip inspired me to go a’hunting as I vaguely remember this case.

http://administrativeappeals.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk//Aspx/view.aspx?id=3423

     
ErinBrokovich
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Housing Team - Bespoke Supportive Tenancies Ltd

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Great thanks