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UC and HB refusing housing costs

CDV Adviser
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Nestor Financial Group Ltd

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My client was in receipt of Housing Benefit from Haringey Council.

In October 2021, he moved a new address and fell under Enfield London Boro. An application was made for Housing Benefit and the council wrote to him advising him that his claim was unsuccessful because he lives in an area covered by Universal Credit. 

An application was made for Universal Credit in December 2021 which was successful but didn’t include a housing element. It would appear that his tenancy agreement states that he lives in supported accommodation and therefore UC won’t pay his rent.

The LA has said that although he lives in supported accommodation, as he has a private landlord, he is not entitled to HB.

Any ideas where he goes from here. He is now at risk of being evicted for non payment of rent.

Prisca
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benefits section (training & accuracy) Bristol city council

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HI
If its supported accommodation then HB is payable - Its the level of support provided to/needed by the customer which determines whether its supported accommodation.  Most supported accommodation is run by some kind of private landlord.

Aldingbourne
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We have the same situation in my local authority area. I’m very interested to hear people’s thoughts as it’s severely impacting the people we support (with learning disabilities and /or autism). One supported living provider has been told by the LA that they cannot award full HB as they are a private company and not a charity or RSL. However, the accommodation provider tells me that full HB has been awarded in the past and they don’t know why a change has happened. To compound this, our local county council is continuing to refer people to that provider under the belief that HB will be awarded without issue. As a result vulnerable people are falling into debt and not able to afford living costs. It is very frustrating.

CDV Adviser
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I’m waiting for more information on the way it is run and what services they provide. I’ll let you know when I hear something.

HB Anorak
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If necessary, if it cannot be resolved by communication, people in this situation need to make sure they have two MR/appeals on the go to cover all the bases: one against the UC decision that doesn’t include housing costs, and another against the decision to refuse HB.  Those still on legacy living costs benefits and not otherwise inclined to claim UC just yet have to gamble: if they put all their eggs in the HB basket and don’t claim UC, they do risk missing out on housing costs from either shop if the HB appeal doesn’t go their way.

I think we need to clarify what is meant by “private” in this context.  Supported accommodation, or “specified accommodation” to use the legal term, is provided by non-profit bodies.  They are private in the sense that they are not public authorities, but specified accommodation cannot be provided by just any private organisation - it needs to be a non-profit such as:

- a registered non-profit provider of social housing
- a registered charity
- a Community Benefit Society (in practice these are mostly registered housing providers)
- a company limited by guarantee, generally but especially if also a CIC
- a CIC limited by shares perhaps, although I have my doubts about whether this meets the definition

But specified accommodation cannot be provided by:

- a private individual
- a normal trading company limited by shares, unless perhaps it is a CIC
- one of the small number of for-profit registered social housing providers in England

In the Haringey to Enfield mover case in the OP, I assume the issue is that the private landlord is not a non-profit body.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Information and advice resources - Age UK

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DWP has just published some guidance on HB and supported housing.

Housing Benefit guidance for supported housing claims

Aldingbourne
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My Network Aldingbourne Trust

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Thank you that is really helpful. I shall have a read and digest it.

Jo_Smith
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Citizens Advice Hillingdon

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I’ve had a similar enquiry recently: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/18255/

Rebecca Lough
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We come across this a lot and I would highlight the following:

When you declare to UC that you live in ‘Supported or Sheltered Accommodation’ then you get a little box saying Please claim HB with no further info. So often people will say UC have told them to claim HB but no substantive decision has actually been made about it, it’s just an automated response.

If it doesn’t meet the threshold of specified accommodation then it needs to be redeclared as Private Landlord in the journal and then the normal questions are prompted and in my experience, the HCE go into payment without issue. They are also responsive with backdating requests in the context of it being an extension of time of late notification. In my experience, most of the new accommodations in this situation don’t meet the specified accommodation criteria and are covered by UC which can be achieved through redeclaring housing costs and requesting backdate.

The other big issue is that obviously it’s then restricted to LHA rates but supported accommodation normally charges significantly more than that.