My client who is a single parent with a 9 month old daughter has been claiming and receiving UC which included a housing element up until May 2020. DWP has now made a decision not to pay her a housing element because they do no believe the relationship with her landlord to be a commercial one. Her rent is £600/month and the help she has received through UC has been restricted to £480/month due to the LHA. I am helping her appeal against the decision to not pay her the housing element. She is related to her landlord but he is a distant cousin of her mother and so not a close relative. He has provided her with a tenancy agreement which she has shown to DWP and has also confirmed in writing that he would evict her if she fell behind with her rent.
The problem I have is that DWP has suspended her UC entirely (not just the housing element) and will not lift the suspension until she tells them that she has no housing costs. I received the following email from DWP confirming this:
“As discussed, I have looked through ******‘s UC notes and journal messages and she has been advised numerous times over a period of about 6 weeks that in order for her claim to be de-suspended she would need to remove her housing costs. This is because a decision maker has decided that she is not entitled to receive them as part of her claim. Once she has done this, we can then look at paying her the allowances for herself and her children.
****** has also been given the information on how to appeal her refusal of housings costs. A letter was uploaded to her journal on 09.05.20, giving full written reasons as to why her housing costs were disallowed and how to appeal going forward.
She was also given this information again on 04.06.20, via a journal message from a Case Manager.
If you are able to advise ****** accordingly, it would be most appreciated, as we are now concerned that she will be left without payment and her next payment date has already passed. Once the changes are made, I can contact a Case Manager and ask them to look at paying her anything she may be due”.
Can DWP do this? The client has a tenancy agreement and has to pay £600/month in rent. So why would she tell them she has no housing costs? I cannot find anything in the ADM that allows them to do this
Can DWP do this?
Sorry I got distracted but “nope” is probably as good as answer as this requires.
Benefit can be suspended in whole or in part. The only basis for suspension is that there was a doubt about housing costs entitlement but that doubt has been resolved by the decision that there is in fact no housing costs entitlement. The grounds for suspension no longer exist and in any event do not infect the remainder of the claim beyond the element which is actually subject to dispute.
See also - a dispute as to whether a 19 year old is a QYP. That doesn’t mean that the housing costs element should be suspended as it has nothing to do with the dispute.
The suspension is unlawful on its own terms. It is also arguably an abuse of process as it is an attempt to apply invalid pressure to the claimant to abandon the proposition the appeal is based on. It probably justifies a threat of JR. https://cpag.org.uk/welfare-rights/judicial-review/judicial-review-pre-action-letters
Elliot - many thanks for your response. It does seem odd that considering she is appealing against the refusal to pay the housing element, that they want her to say that she has no housing costs and thereby blow her appeal out of the water. And effectively holding the other UC elements to ransom.
This seems to be a recurring problem, where DWP seem unable to implement their own decisions, and instead ask the claimant to do it for them by making declarations of changes which are false, or at least which the claimant disagrees with. I don’t know if it’s because the decision-maker in question literally doesn’t have the technical power or know-how to amend an award, but it places the claimant in a very difficult position.
In the example I’ve seen, DWP knowingly continued with an overpayment until the false declaration was made by the claimant, rather than suspend the whole lot. Your client might ask them to do similar, though I suspect they wouldn’t.
If she does end up having to make a declaration of no housing costs while pursuing an appeal, have a look at para 27 of this JR:
Update - DWP has now seen sense and have agreed to reinstate the client’s UC less the Housing Element which we are helping her appeal. I think words like “unlawful” probably helped. Thanks to those that helped
AS a matter of interest was she getting HB for her home before she claimed UC, I have had a couple of cases where the Council were quite happily paying but UC declined. As far as I know there are no special rules for UC so its a bit counter intuitive for UC to reach a different conclusion from that of the Council and showing UC the Councils version helped the cases be reviewed
No, she has never claimed/received Housing Benefit. They were paying her the Housing Element in UC up until recently and have now decided that she does not have a commercial arrangement with her landlord. She is appealing this aspect.