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Caravan issues

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare rights - Greenwich Council

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Joined: 23 November 2018

Hello,

It’s quite niche but grateful if anyone has thoughts. Client lives in a caravan on a LA pitch and gets UC for this as housing costs. She has no costs on the caravan itself. A family member lives in a separate caravan on the same pitch, and rents this caravan.

HB had previously calculated it as a non-dep deduction as they’re sharing the pitch.

When she claimed UC, they have paid full pitch costs from the start. Is this wrong? Is she at risk of an overpayment? Should there be a non-dep deduction for this family member, in a separate caravan under UC rules?

Big thanks in advance.

Yvonne Sharp
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Advice team - Clackmannanshire Council

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Who does the family member rent the caravan from?  Is it the Council as well?
I’ve had some issues with UC and the pitches we have at our Travelling Persons site.  Our residents rent their pitch but bring their own caravan.  UC Housing costs covers the pitch rental. 
I would think that if they are covering Housing costs twice for the same pitch (albeitonce for the caravan and once for the pitch) then this could result in an overpayment.  I’m not sure how to approach this, or if in fact UC would know how to approach this.  I think you’d have to try and track someone down at your local JCP who could escalate thhis with a view to prevent an overpayment but I’m not sure UC will actually know what to do.

Good Luck!

Dan Manville
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Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

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It’s up to your client how to approach this of course but I’d argue that someone sharing the site isn’t sharing the accomodation, i.e. the caravan.

The payment is for site fees for “the site upon which the accomodation stands” so it doesn’t rule out different accomodation on the same site.  I think HB shouldn’t have been treating the other person as a non dep as the site is discrete from the accomodation.

[ Edited: 18 Nov 2019 at 12:41 pm by Dan Manville ]
HB Anorak
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Benefits consultant/trainer - hbanorak.co.uk, East London

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Good question.  The definitions are slightly different from the HB equivalents.

The definition of “dwelling” for UC purposes refers to the LGFA 1992, which defines a dwelling as a unit that would have been a hereditament for rating purposes before 1989.  I think that residential caravan plots attract individual council tax don’t they, so one way or another the dwelling that she is claiming for comprises the entire pitch.

Should there be a non-dependant deduction (or HCC)?  A non-dependant for UC purposes is someone who “lives in the accommodation with the claimant”.  Do they - if their caravan is on the same plot?  I don’t know.

The alternative would be to treat the relative in the other caravan as a commercial sub-occupier if they pay a regular amount towards the site rent.  There is no provision in the UC Regs to take any account of such a person - no income, no bedroom allowance.  There would then be a possibility that the claimant would be affected by the bedroom tax if the other caravan is included in the bedroom count.  But then:

- neither caravan is being rented from the Council, which probably distinguishes this case from the recent Perth and Kinross case where both pitch and caravan were rented from the Council and the bedroom tax applied
- we also come back to “the accommodation” in para 36 of Schedule 4: does the other person’s caravan which is sited within the same “dwelling” count as part of the claimant’s “accommodation”?

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare rights - Greenwich Council

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Family member rents the caravan privately, but sits it on client’s pitch.

So client pays X amount in LA pitch fees, but nothing for the caravan itself (privately owned) then relative pays private landlord for the caravan, but pays LA nothing (except ctax non dep contribution to be specific) as she does not rent the pitch directly.

Thanks for the thoughts so far.

scott mcinally
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Inclusion manager - Durham County Council

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I managed Traveller’s Liaison Service for 11 years and that included the site management of 6 GRT sites. It is very unusual to have two caravans occupying the same pitch, as the licence to occupy the pitch usually prohibits this- it’s usually a licence rather than a tenancy (although this may have changed). You would need to see the licence agreement to see what it allows. You also could be (inadvertently) opening up a can of worms. Happy to discuss with you if you want to contact me directly.

Peter Turville
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Welfare rights worker - Oxford Community Work Agency

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HB Anorak - 18 November 2019 12:38 PM

Should there be a non-dependant deduction (or HCC)?  A non-dependant for UC purposes is someone who “lives in the accommodation with the claimant”.  Do they - if their caravan is on the same plot?  I don’t know.

We used to see this issue with HB (not seen any under UC yet) where different HB authorities took a different approach. Extended families sharing a single plot is not unusual (or a single family ‘assessment unit’ occupying more than one caravan -  which may share a plot with the caravan(s) of the person(s) who is liable for the plot rent) .

From our experience it is also not unusual to rent a caravan - there are a number of specialist providers.

Some HB authorities argued that they were ‘non-dependants’ of the person(s) who rented the plot because they were, in effect, all members of the same household because they shared the communal utilities block (kitchen, toilet, shower). Some times they would also argue they were in the same household because they all effectively had ‘open access’ to each others ‘vans (thus demonstrating a certain lack of understanding of appropriate cultural issues!). Even had cases where HB (and DWP) used this argument in alleged ‘living together’ cases.

We were usually able to argue they were not ‘non-dependants’ (or L/T) because they maintained separate households (caravans) even if they did share a facilities block (in the same was occupiers of a bed-sit or house share are separate households although they may share a kitchen / bathroom etc.). Part of the argument could be that the site owner considered the extended family members to be ‘unauthorised occupiers’ of the plot because they were not the tenants liable for plot rent / CT.

Therefore only the tenants of the plot were liable for plot rent / council tax & eligible for HB/CTB/LCTR iro the plot - but the occupants of any particular caravan(s) were eligible for HB for the rent due to a specialist caravan rental provider.

The usual disclaimer - a particular case will depend on the facts.