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UC and Housing Costs - Treated as liable

JPCHC
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Cardinal Hume Centre - Welfare Rights

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I’ve been going round in circles for months on this one and I wondered if anyone has any ideas on how to break the deadlock…. please!

Clt has moved to a larger Housing Association provider (her landlord has unchanged).  The rent has increased but UC are still paying the old rent becuase they have not been able to verify her new housing costs.  Clt is claiming UC as a single person.  The tenancy is in her husband’s name but they are separated (in/out of prison, history of DV etc).  The LL has refused to verify her costs as she is not on the tenancy, and nor does she have a use and occupation account (Qs the LL portal asks). 

The DWP has told them if they can’t verify online they can simply do a letter so housing costs can be put back into payment The LL maintains that they can’t do this and she would need to go to court to get the tenancy asssigned.

For my part, I have repeatedly reminded them that the rules for transferring tenancies are completely separate to the eligibility rules for the Housing Costs Element.  I have also set out the basis on which she can be treated as liable for the rent because of a ‘failure to pay by the person who is liable’ (UC Regs, Sch 2, para 2(1); 2, para 2(2)) so hopefully they would be able to confirm it.

I’ve now had a response from the LL to say the payments are insufficient (b/c clt still getting HCE for smaller property) and the next stage is legal action.  I don’t know where to go from here.

It is beyond frustrating.  Any ideas on how to break the stalemate?

Many thanks

Bonnie
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BABL. Bridgend Citizens Advice

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Hello,

I have copied this from an article on Medium:
The housing costs element is payable under Section 11 Welfare Reform Act 2012 and Reg 25 UC Regs 2013 if the client is ‘liable’ to make payments on the home.
Where a couple have separated and the tenancy was in the sole name of the person who has left, it is possible for the remaining partner to be ‘treated’ as liable for the full rent under Schedule 2 para 2 UC Regs 2013 if all the following conditions are met:
the person who is liable to make the payments is not doing do;
the claimant has to make the payments in order to continue occupation of the accommodation
the claimant’s circumstances are such that it would be unreasonable to expect them to make other arrangements
it is otherwise reasonable in all the circumstances to treat the claimant as liable to make the payments
If these conditions are satisfied, then the remaining partner should be able to claim help with housing costs on 100% of the rent.
https://medium.com/adviser/untidy-tenancies-29ee9b22b8c1

Hope this helps.

JPCHC
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Cardinal Hume Centre - Welfare Rights

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Thank you for your help.  These are the provisions which I have already quoted to them and still no joy.  They are adamant they won’t verify the housing costs, or write a letter and then in the next breath they talk about insufficient payments/legal action.  I think I’ll go back to UC and see if we can come up with an alternative solution….

In fact, if I print off the whole sorry email chain threatening legal action maybe they’ll deduce from that it’s a scenario where she should be treated as liable!

Elliot Kent
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The reason that you have ended up in a stalemate is because everyone involved in this scenario appears to have forgotten that we are dealing with a decision based system.

All these statements about confirming or verifying the housing costs are just administrative noise. It is ultimately for the DWP to make a decision about whether or not to pay the housing costs and if your client thinks that decision is wrong, then she can seek an MR and then appeal.

If you have a decision on an AP where the claimant has reported the change and DWP have refused to include the HCE, then your client can challenge that in the ordinary way (or JR it if the ordinary process would not amount to an adequate remedy)

JPCHC
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Cardinal Hume Centre - Welfare Rights

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Elliot Kent - 30 January 2020 04:09 PM

The reason that you have ended up in a stalemate is because everyone involved in this scenario appears to have forgotten that we are dealing with a decision based system.

All these statements about confirming or verifying the housing costs are just administrative noise. It is ultimately for the DWP to make a decision about whether or not to pay the housing costs and if your client thinks that decision is wrong, then she can seek an MR and then appeal.

If you have a decision on an AP where the claimant has reported the change and DWP have refused to include the HCE, then your client can challenge that in the ordinary way (or JR it if the ordinary process would not amount to an adequate remedy)

Thanks Elliott.  I guess I thought it might be quicker to resolve it this way than the MR route but maybe not now… I will MR all APs since she moved. Cheers for helping me see the wood from the trees!

Elliot Kent
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I am just looking at this situation again and wondering how it has come about.

Your client was living in property 1 (which is presumably her liability) but has now ended up on a single claim in property 2 (her husband’s liability) whilst still getting the HCE paid for property 1.

Has she ended the tenancy on property 1?

Mairi
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Welfare rights officer - Dunedin Canmore Housing Association

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This needs a bit of research as my information isn’t up-to-date. 

However, I think I would suggest that the landlord is the sticking point.  It’s my belief that if the claimant and the tenant are married and it was their marital home (that bit’s not clear to me from the OP) that the marital homes act gives her the same legal rights to the tenancy as her husband therefore she doesn’t need the tenancy to be ‘assigned’ to her - although they may want to tidy things up in some way for themselves if he’s not coming back to the tenancy.

JPCHC
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Elliot Kent - 31 January 2020 07:58 AM

I am just looking at this situation again and wondering how it has come about.

Your client was living in property 1 (which is presumably her liability) but has now ended up on a single claim in property 2 (her husband’s liability) whilst still getting the HCE paid for property 1.

Has she ended the tenancy on property 1?


Both were sole tenancies in her husband’s name only.  They gave the family a larger tenancy but for some reason didn’t include his wife on the joint tenancy (lived with him in property 1 since 2004).

The HCE was paid on property 1 without any issue because it was a different collections officer who took the logical approach and wrote UC the letter they were after.  I don’t know if it’s been a ‘policy change’ at the Housing Association, or just that the people involved are just less helpful/up to speed this time.  Who knows!

I’ve also challenged the entitlement decisions on all the previous APs, as you advised, so thanks for that.