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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Housing costs  →  Thread

Housing costs through UC and HB? Urgent. 

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare rights - Greenwich Council

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Be grateful for any thoughts ASAP. Trying to keep the scenario vague.

Couple who are living separate lives in the same property with children. Wife is our client. DV occurs and wife leaves with some of the children. Remaining husband claims UC for the remaining children initially including full housing costs but did not pay the rent. Wife is claiming IS and CTC as a single person, for all children prior to leaving the property and continues to claim. At the point at which she left the property, she had an HB claim. This HB claim is stopped because he’s claimed UC with full liability.

Wife has concerns about the wellbeing of the children who live with him and moves back in. His UC HC adjusts for 50% liability. Ignoring the CTC/child element problem, is there any scope to revise her HB claim on the basis that they are separate people and his actions are through no fault of her? Or does him getting paid full HC kill it off? We don’t mind him being incurred with an overpayment on the basis that full HC liability shouldn’t have been paid to him. They’re in significant arrears.

What do you think?

Va1der
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I take it the husband is treated as only being 50% liable because he notified UC accordingly, otherwise she could have stayed in the property as a non dependant. Since she claims IS I assume at least one of the children are under 5, which means he would not have had an HCC, and the full rent would have been covered by UC HC.

However, since that is not the case, I don’t see how she can avoid rent liability, and given that her HB was correctly stopped (even disregarding the UC claim, I understand she wasn’t staying in the property, and assume she’s been staying with friends/family in the interim). Unless she falls into the limited exceptions that would allow a new HB claim, UC seems the only option.

Edit: Silly wording there. She is of course not necessarily liable (unless there is still a tenancy with both parties named as equally liable, but then this becomes a housing issue etc), and could occupy the property without paying rent, but I assume that would create an issue with the husband, who might now struggle to convince UC that he’s 100% liable again.

[ Edited: 5 Mar 2020 at 11:32 am by Va1der ]
Rebecca Lough
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Sorry, my wording was a bit vague. She left the property through threat of violence so I would argue HB can continue to be paid on those grounds.

Thanks for your input

Timothy Seaside
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If I’ve understood this properly, they are joint tenants, but separated some time ago but continued to live under the same roof. She was getting legacy benefits which included HB to cover “her half” of the rent. She moved out for a while but has moved back - still separated. In the meantime, the husband has claimed UC, and got them to cover the whole rent with his HCE.

Was the husband claiming anything before she moved out?
Was the CTC claim in her name only?
Did she continue to claim HB after she moved out (i.e. for the place she moved to)?

 

 

Rebecca Lough
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That’s right.

Husband was not claiming anything before she left - he is working and wasn’t responsible for children at the time. No HB either.

CTC is in her name only - as they’ve been separated for a while

A request for dual HB was made from the refuge she was at, but HB considered that if he was receiving full HC, this could not be paid.

Va1der
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Assuming she claimed for two properties under HB regs 7(6)(a), I guess the question is whether there is a provision the regs to allow for a HB claim to continue for the first property with a nil award, on the assumption that the claimant would return to the property and resume liability for (a portion of) the rent.
However, I don’t see why such a provision would have been made other than to deliberately protect from a UC claim, which seems unlikely (I don’t know). On legacy she could just have done a rapid reclaim/new claim for HB.

HB Anorak
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Is the refuge in the same Council area and was she entitled to HB while staying there?

Timothy Seaside
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The important thing is whether there was any reason for a break in the legacy benefits. There wasn’t - there was just a change of address when she moved out, and another change when she moved back in.

UC doesn’t really make any difference. He was able to be treated as liable for the whole rent when she moved out, and on that basis it wouldn’t have been reasonable for HB to have agreed to cover rent on two properties (there would also have been questions around intention to return). As soon as she returned, her HB would move from the refuge, back to the family home, and this would mean that his UC could only cover “his half” of the rent.

So, yes, I think her HB should continue. She is liable for “her half” of the rent. UC should not continue to treat him as liable for “her half” after she moves back in.

I suppose another way to look at this is to ask what was the situation before she moved out. They were living there and were each liable for only half the rent - she paid hers from HB, he paid his from his earnings. There was no suggestion that she couldn’t claim HB because he could afford to pay her half for her - because that question just doesn’t come up. As long as she’s living there, it’s “her half” in benefit terms.

Va1der
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HB Anorak - 05 March 2020 01:38 PM

Is the refuge in the same Council area and was she entitled to HB while staying there?

Or in a different council area, but provided by her ‘old’ council - same rule applies, no?

Timothy Seaside
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HB Anorak - 05 March 2020 01:38 PM

Is the refuge in the same Council area and was she entitled to HB while staying there?

To qualify my response above: I had presumed that the fact that she requested HB on both properties meant that it must have been in the same LA (as a change of circumstances, rather than a new claim), and that it was just the HB on the family home that was refused.

Va1der
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Timothy Seaside - 05 March 2020 01:45 PM

UC doesn’t really make any difference. He was able to be treated as liable for the whole rent when she moved out, and on that basis it wouldn’t have been reasonable for HB to have agreed to cover rent on two properties (there would also have been questions around intention to return). As soon as she returned, her HB would move from the refuge, back to the family home, and this would mean that his UC could only cover “his half” of the rent.

But on this assumption there isn’t an issue to begin with - the client has an existing HB claim, and moves within the same LA area - no reason why the HB can’t move to the new (old) property, and no need for Rebecca’s backstory.

Unless she doesn’t currently claim HB, she stayed in a different LA area, or she wants to continue claiming HB for 2 properties.

Timothy Seaside
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Va1der - 05 March 2020 02:35 PM

But on this assumption there isn’t an issue to begin with - the client has an existing HB claim, and moves within the same LA area - no reason why the HB can’t move to the new (old) property, and no need for Rebecca’s backstory.

Unless she doesn’t currently claim HB, she stayed in a different LA area, or she wants to continue claiming HB for 2 properties.

I thought the OP and subsequent details suggested that this is the problem: there shouldn’t be an issue to begin with - HB should have survived a couple of changes of address, and the fact that the partner was getting full HCE in UC in the interim has fuddled the HB decision maker.

Rebecca Lough
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Thanks for all your feedback.

I’ve hit a spanner - the refuge was out of area and not covered by HB as council did not place her there. The request for housing costs was for her original tenancy. Is she scuppered by the break in entitlement.

HB Anorak
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Only way back would be revision of the decision that ended her original HB award.  On the one hand I can understand why that decision was made - seeking to avoid at least one of the estranged partners receiving a windfall in excess of the rent liability.  In a nice clean case you wouldn’t want the combined amount of HB and UC to exceed the full rent.  On that basis it could be seen as reasonable to apportion the rent 0:100 leaving her with no HB entitlement.

But as it turns out this isn’t a nice clean case.  The UC that her ex received for the rent was not used to pay rent.  That is hardly your client’s fault and it might be reasonable to apportion the rent in such a way that she does have some HB entitlement on the home she fled.  As long as the episode didn’t last longer than 52 weeks, there should not be a problem treating her as occupying the home, the only issue is whether she has any eligible rent.  As little as 50p a week would be enough to preserve continuous legacy benefit entitlement.

There is nothing in the HB Regs that requires her to have a zero rent apportionment simply because someone else has claimed UC for the same rent.  It is a factor for sure, but not the only one.  Reg 12B requires all the circumstances to be taken into account and there might be compelling circumstances here that would justify apportioning at least some of the rent to her.