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who is the “relevant authority” for a DHP for arrears in a different LA area

Prisca
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benefits section (training & accuracy) Bristol city council

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- Our customer getting HB in temp accommodation in our area ( LA 1)
wants to join Housing List but customer has rent arrears at a former property in a different are LA2

We advised that as a DHP for previous arrears are a backdated DHP, then LA 2 need to makle the decision ( because ts a backdated award with no time limit - so they would be responsible because the addtess the DHP is required for is in their arrea and they ( hopefullY) paid HB at the address

We explained that a DHP for rent in advance is “immediate need” and it is that which allows us to pay a DHP for RIA/deposit at a different area if the customer is moving ourt of our area ,

LA2 are having none of it, saying the relevant authority is the LA where HB ?UCHE is in payment now and they have responsibility for all DHP regardless of whether arreras or not

I cant find a definaition of relevant authority or where in the Guidance manual/ DFA regs it clarifies which LA has responsibility

If it is us, we would need the info re HB dates, eligible rent and sany shortfalls to consider, and that seems bonkers, as would take themas long to provide that infor as it would to deal with the DHP claim - but i appreciate that just because it seems logival doesnt mean thats the way it works

Please can anyone clarify which LA is repsonsible for previous address arrears?

Thanks - Prisca

Timothy Seaside
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I’m not sure about the DHP question - I’m not even sure if there is a definitive answer. I think I’d have a look at the DHP policies of the two LAs - if they talk about having an effect (e.g. homelessness prevention, helping people to work) within the LA area then that might mean they don’t have discretion to make an award to somebody outside their area. And given that we’re talking about paying off arrears, it’s going to be very easy for the other LA to say no anyway, and very hard to for the applicant to challenge.

I’m puzzled about why they need to clear the arrears to get on the housing register. A local authority has to give reasonable preference in its allocations scheme to homeless people. Unless there’s a more recent and contradictory case, the Court of Appeal decided against Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014 that applicants in reasonable preference categories have to be allowed onto the scheme.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Timothy Seaside - 15 December 2021 11:24 AM

I’m puzzled about why they need to clear the arrears to get on the housing register. A local authority has to give reasonable preference in its allocations scheme to homeless people. Unless there’s a more recent and contradictory case, the Court of Appeal decided against Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014 that applicants in reasonable preference categories have to be allowed onto the scheme.

Isn’t that about the additional ‘qualifying people’ requirements that English authorities can impose? We had a query on similar issues this week and highlighted info in section 5.2 of our Council and housing association housing factsheet.

Reasonable preference and qualification criteria

Problems can occur if an applicant for housing falls within a reasonable preference category but does not meet the authority’s qualification criteria.

It is lawful for authorities to disqualify individuals who would otherwise be given reasonable preference, e.g. you have medical need to move but have been accused of anti-social behaviour. However, qualification criteria should not exclude entire sub-groups of people who should be given preference and must comply with equalities, human rights, and public law.

Prisca
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The customer was accepted as being homeless and has been placed in temp accomm as the LA accepted the had a duty to do so
However - when it comes to apllying for more permanant accommodation ( HA or LHA) customers with excess of 8 weeks rent arrears at any previous property are prohibited from bidding on properties. They need to ereduce/clear their arrears before they can start bidding -

hence the request for a DHP to clear the arrears

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Does this help Prisca (or not help but maybe explain why they’re saying what they’re saying)?

6.5. If your LA makes an out of borough placement and the claimant is entitled to HB, the placing authority will pay the HB and consider the DHP.

6.6. If your LA makes an out of borough placement and the claimant is required to make a claim for UC housing costs, within the area that they have been placed. The LA where the claimant is now living and claiming UC housing costs should consider the DHP. This is because the allocation of DHP funding is based on the caseload data within each LA area.

Discretionary Housing Payments guidance manual

That would suggest that the LA where the client accrued the arrears are correct that the guidance states it’s up to your LA to consider the DHP request if you’re covering the current housing costs.

Elliot Kent
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Does the legislation care which authority deals with a given DHP application?

s69(7) Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 defines “relevant authority” as “an authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit”. It doesn’t appear to be immediately relevant whether that is or is not the same authority which happens to be dealing with the individual applicant’s HB claim (or which would be if it were not for UC).

Is it not just down to the individual authorities to decide whether or not it is appropriate to make a DHP on the basis of the particular facts of the application?

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Or alternatively, the LA simply use their discretion to disregard the arrears in terms of the applicant being a qualifying person for joining the housing register and being allocated social housing under the reasonable preference criteria?

Prisca
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@ Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
.6.5. If your LA makes an out of borough placement and the claimant is entitled to HB, the placing authority will pay the HB and consider the DHP.

There are no out of borough placements to consider - the customer accrued arrears while getting HB at a property in LA2. She was evicted for rent arrears
Some time later ( over a year later) She applied as homeless in our ares - LA accepted a homeless resposibility for her as she had links to the area and had lived locally for the prescribed amount of time
We are paying HB as she is in hostel accommodation in outr area.
Our LA had diddly squat to do with the tenancy in the other area !

@Paul_Treloar_AgeUK

Or alternatively, the LA simply use their discretion to disregard the arrears in terms of the applicant being a qualifying person for joining the housing register and being allocated social housing under the reasonable preference criteria

That would be housing decison - unlikely to happen though, the arrera thing was bought in a few years ago, no sure how often the discretion to ignore the arreras criteria has been used…..


@ Paul_Treloar_AgeUK     @Elliot Kent

The DHP is to cover arreras
Arreras of a DHP are treated as a backdated claim for a DHP , not a lump sum payment - so i cannot just award a DHP of £x to cover her arreras without tieing that payment to specific weeks where there was a shortfall between Hb paid and rent charged- Gargett makes clear HB+DHP cannot exceed eligible rent
I dont have that info cos she wasnt gettign HB in my area during the time the arreras accrued .
The LA with that info would be LA2

I cannot backdate that far as the customer isnt /wasnt getting HB in my arera for the period she wants the DHP

if its a backdated claim with no time limit apart from July 2001 , im really struggling to understand why its NOT LA2 ( the authority where she was paid HB and where the arrears accured ) who are responsible for considering the DHP for that period )

In fact, if its a backdated claim with no time limit, it almost looks like its irrelevant whether customer is on UCHE/HB NOW, she needed to be on it during the period she wants the DHP for ...

 

[ Edited: 16 Dec 2021 at 02:17 pm by Prisca ]
Stainsby
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I dont see why LA2 does not provide you with information regarding the claim in thoer area (perhaps the claimant should make a subject access request to them )

LA2 are the authority best placed to pay the DHP but they obviously dont want to and there is not much that can be done to force theier hand other than the claimant going through their review process.

On the other hand, I dont think your LA is legally precluded from paying because both the primary and secondary legislation provide that DHP’s can be made by “a relevant authority” .  (defined as an authority adminstering housing benefit)

On the other hand S134 of the Social Security Adminstration Act provides that housing benefit shall be funded and adminstered by the appropriate housing authrority or local authority. and that rent allowances shall be paid by the local authority for the area in which a dwelling is situated.

I think the use of the indefinite pronoun “a” in the DFA legislation as opposed the definite pronoun “the” in the Adminstration Act means that when you are considering a DHP for a past period, the claimant does not need to have been paid HB in your area, but merely has to establish entitlement to HB at the time