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Local authority landlord mistake - is it official error for HB?

Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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If a local authority landlord provided incorrect data to its HB department so that the service charges on a group of properties were incorrectly flagged as ineligible, would that be official error, and so subject to any-time revision?

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

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Yes, I think the general thrust of the case law is that an error in a process with close functional links to HB is an official error for HB purposes.  For example, information reported to a local estate office and then not passed onto the HB section could be an official error - see CH/3586/2007 and CH/2567/2007.

But an error in a process that is completely unrelated to HB administration is not an official error.  In the Minter line of cases, back pay to correct years of underpaid wages to employees affected by indirect sex discrimination led to HB overpayments and the court decided that the original underpayment of wages by the employing authority was not an official error for HB purposes (the official error point was decided at UT level in Minter if I recall correctly, the Court of Appeal then considered whether the arrears payments were income).

Since the HB processing system presumably harvests service charge data directly from the rents system, I think it is safe to assume that an errors in the data on the rents system are official errors for HB purposes.

There is a slight difference between the definitions of “official error” for overpayment and revision purposes - in the revision definition there is an “anti-test case” rule, but it isn’t relevant to your scenario.  The remainder of the definition is virtually identical to the o/p definition from which the case law arose.

[ Edited: 16 Aug 2021 at 02:28 pm by HB Anorak ]
Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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Thank you.

I was actually thinking that the Reg 4 D&A meaning of official error is less restrictive than the Reg 100 HB one because it doesn’t include the bit about the claimant or the payee not materially contributing to the error (which could be potentially problematic/confusing in this case).

But it seems to me that the first of those decisions couldn’t be much clearer about the scope of “relevant authority” which is the main thing I was getting at.

I am opening a can of worms.