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Correct allocation of rent?

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare rights - Greenwich Council

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Hello,

I have client who is joint tenant with her adult child, and also lives with her younger child who is a qualifying young person. So far, UC have paid her 50% of the rent on the basis that they’re jointly liable. However, that doesn’t seem quite right with the existence of the dependent child? The adult child is under 35 and therefore subject to shared room rate.

If it makes a difference, Mum doesn’t want adult child to be liable for the rent and so far has just been trying to cover it herself.

Grateful for any thoughts.

Ianb
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Macmillan benefits team, Citizens Advice Bristol

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Rebecca Lough - 21 May 2020 12:51 PM

Hello,

I have client who is joint tenant with her adult child, and also lives with her younger child who is a qualifying young person. So far, UC have paid her 50% of the rent on the basis that they’re jointly liable. However, that doesn’t seem quite right with the existence of the dependent child? The adult child is under 35 and therefore subject to shared room rate.

If it makes a difference, Mum doesn’t want adult child to be liable for the rent and so far has just been trying to cover it herself.

Grateful for any thoughts.

if it’s a joint tenancy then surely the adult child is liable for their share of the rent. I don’t see that the presence of a dependant child makes any difference. If mother didn’t want adult child to be liable the tenancy should have been in mother’s name only (but perhaps landlord would not accept her on her own due to finances).

Elliot Kent
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Shelter

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It’s a housing law myth that joint tenants are necessarily liable for a certain proportion of the rent, as many students have discovered when co-tenants go missing without paying their “share”.

Universal Credit reinforces this myth by the rule that - in general - the rent is to be divvied up equally by reference to the number of liable tenants. So this is why your client is getting half the rent counted.

However, the regs allow an exception to be made where it is “unreasonable” for the rent to be dealt with in this way - see para 24(5), Sch 4 of the UC Regs - and in these circumstances the DWP can institute whatever split they consider reasonable. This is most common in the case of “untidy” tenancies where one joint tenant has left the property entirely and therefore it is plainly reasonable to pay the whole rent for the remaining tenant.

If you go to the example at ADM F3197 you will see an extremely similar case to your own put forward as an example of when this power might be appropriate. That case has two tenants, one of whom has a child. The tenant with a child pays 2/3 of the rent and the other tenant pays 1/3 and the DM agrees this is a reasonable arrangement and uses this instead of the normal 50/50.

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare rights - Greenwich Council

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Big thanks - that’s perfect.

Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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To add to what Elliott has said; it’s Para 35 of Sch 4 for joint tenants in social housing, but the provisions are basically the same.

On the “untidy” (Aaaargh!) tenancy point, I think it’s probably best to adopt a two-pronged approach - argue that it’s reasonable to apportion the rent 100% for the remaining joint-tenant using Sch 4, but also argue that the remaining occupant should be deemed liable for the absent joint-tenant’s “share” under Sch 2 if they’re not paying it.

In these cases, it’s never been clear to me which argument has succeeded with UC because they refuse to accept it as an MR request and just agree to include the whole rent without accepting they’ve made or revised any decision. It seems to me that if they haven’t referred it on to the mystical Decision Makers, they don’t believe a decision can have been made. It is clear that they struggle with it, and apparently the computer system can’t handle APAs for anything other than a 50% “share”. I’d be interested to see what they do with a joint tenancy where there are four joint tenants.

Elliot Kent
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Thanks Timothy, I suppose its two routes to the same result. The reason why I prefer apportionment is because the idea that somebody could have a schedule 2 deemed liability for something which they are already actually liable for (jointly and severally as a joint tenant) makes me very unhappy.

Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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I share your concern about this distinction. It does strike me as perverse to have to argue that somebody should be treated as liable for rent payments that they are legally liable for. But it wouldn’t be the only instance of UC failing to understand basic concepts of law.

It does seem to me that Sch 2 should be for situations like where a sole tenant goes to prison and her partner is claiming UC in her absence, while Sch 4 can cover allocating the “share” of liability in a joint tenancy (wherever the other joint tenant lives). Of course it may be that UC are happy with Sch 4 on its own; it’s just that I haven’t been able to tell because they revise their decisions without an MRN.

It’s belt and braces. And as long as my trousers don’t fall down, I’m okay.

HB Anorak
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For what it’s worth, there is a Commissioner’s decision that endorses Elliot’s point:

http://administrativeappeals.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk/aspx/view.aspx?id=1032