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mexfield housing Cooperative , eligible for HB or not? and if so, what scheme??? 

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benefits section (training & accuracy) Bristol city council

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Joined: 20 August 2015


We have a customer who has been in receipt of HB since 1992 when she sold her property to,  and rented it back from,  Mexfield Housing cooperative. The properties are currently managed by a company called Westgate.

There is caselaw stating these Mexfield arrangements inadvertently created 90 yr long leases as there was no initial term set when the arrangements were entered into - the occupancy says customer can have occupancy from x date and continues month by month . the tenant can end the agreement by giving 28 days notice but it appears that the only way the landlord can end the agreement if is the rent is in arrears by 21 days or more…

westgate have said

Scheme was initially set up for people with Bradford and Bingley mortgages. At the time interest rates were at about 15% and as a not for profit building society, they wanted to help their customers. The initial intention was that they would give the customers some breathing space for a few years. Customers didnt want an assured shorthold agreement, for fear of being evicted after 6 months and so the occupancy agreement was created to give some security. They didnt intend on creating a tenancy for life, the intention was that customers would be able to remain in their own homes until they ‘got back on their feet’. They have the option to buy the property back at any point, but some people have obviously chosen to remain as renters. Out of the original 1000 (approx), 240 remain. Out of the 760 (approx), some have re-purchased and some have just moved on or died. When this happens, properties are not re-let, but sold on the open market.

Our customers occupancy agreement began in 1992 and was created month on month, with no specific time period set .

We paid it as Rent officer (old scheme)

We have now restricted the rent to the rent officer figure (he said she was over accommodated a( customer is 74 and on PCGC)

So my queries are:

Would it be eligible for HB as it has apparently been decided that the original occupancy agreement created a long lease of +90 years (because it didn’t mention any length of time for the agreement to be valid). What needs I need to consider in deciding whether its a long lease or not? o

Mexfield Housing Co-operative - if the long lease thing is OK, when can HB be paid to a member of a Housing Co operative - i though they were not eligible, but have no idea why or whats different about a housing cooperative) The agreement states that tenants must be mebers of the cooperative and properties cannot be rented to people who are not members of the cooperative.

If she isnt eligible g=for HB, would pension credits help with her housing costs (she is 74)

Finally, if she is eligible for HB, Im happy that we should be using rent officer - but dont think we can restrict - - she is pensionable age - i thought the LA had to demonstrate their was cheaper, suitable accommodation for her (and seem to recall this had to be on as a secure footing as the proerty we are expecting her to move from.

I really hope she is eligible because if she isnt, i dont think i can just terminate the claim from now, because nothings changed, I think id at least have to go back to the date of the decision that stated the arrangement were long leases - any o/p being LA error, unrecoverable)

So many rusty bells going on in my head with this so please please pretty please and chinks of light and wisdom you can throw my way would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks - prisca