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Claimant treated as liable or not liable to make payments

Callum Robb WRO
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Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association

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Joined: 5 February 2020

Hi folks, I’m hoping to get some advice on an issue a client of mine is facing that has caused a high rent arrear.

My client signed up for his tenancy about a year ago and lives with his step-mother who has no recourse to public funds (ongoing challenges re: PC & AA residency rules). Until very recently, both my client and his step-mother have been joint tenants, meaning my client has only received 50% of the housing costs from UC. The step-mother has been reluctant to remove herself as joint tenant due to Brexit related worries - although she has now become just a ‘household member’ meaning a standard non dep deduction is applied which we’ll hopefully have covered by a DHP.

For the period when both of them were joint tenants, my client has had no additional income or savings being unable to find work in the area which has understandably made it extremely difficult to make up the extra 50% (a DHP application was also refused). I am trying to argue that UC should apply Sch 2 para 2 UC Regs as I believe it is arguable that it’s “unreasonable” for the step-mother to have contributed to the rent charge for this past period as a joint tenant, and also unreasonable for my client to have “made other arrangements”.  The step-mother is of UK state pension page with no income, no recourse to public funds and unable to work due to poor health. UC have refused an MR based on this argument with the following response:

“UC are currently paying all of your share of the rent. Your tenancy agreement is for 2 people and therefore UC will only cover your part of the rent and not the other tenant. Your circumstances are not deemed to be such that it would be unreasonable to expect you to make other arrangements. UC has already advised you to take a sole tenancy instead of a joint tenancy with someone who has no recourse to public funds.”

My question is, does anyone have any idea whether this argument would stand up at the FTT or whether there may be another approach that could be taken?

Thanks a lot,

Callum

HB Anorak
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Benefits consultant/trainer - hbanorak.co.uk, East London

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Joined: 12 March 2013

It’s not a case of being treated as liable: as joint tenants they were both liable for the whole rent, so there is no need to treat him as liable for something he is liable to pay already. The issue here is how the rent is shared out under para 24 or 35 of Schedule 4. It will come down to much the same argument in substance though: how reasonable is it to allow one of the JTs to circumvent her ineligibility for benefits by allowing the other JT to claim the full rent.