Should Authorities Take More Responsibility When Paying Housing Benefits?

by Mark Alexander

11:11 AM, 6th September 2017
About A year ago

Should Authorities Take More Responsibility When Paying Housing Benefits?

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Should Authorities Take More Responsibility When Paying Housing Benefits?

All Good Landlords detest the phrase “rogue landlords” but we have to accept they exist, just as rogue Police Officers and rogue Vicars do. The difference is that the Police and the Church take responsibility for their rogues, as do many other organisations.

What prompted me to write this post is that a “rogue landlord” was quite rightly prosecuted this week. He had converted a former hotel in Harlesden, into 26 studio flats without seeking council permission back in 2011. He was issued with an enforcement notice in March 2012, but failed to comply. The flats each measured between 9 meters squared and 20 metres squared, despite the minimum size for a studio flat in the capital being set at 37 metres squared and the building was reported as having poor insulation, thin walls, bad maintenance and insanitary conditions. The landlord has been issued with a £300,650 confiscation order and also ordered to pay £20,000 in fines and £18,268 to cover Brent Council’s court costs. He has been given three months to pay the confiscation order in full, which will be distributed between the government, the courts and the council.

What irks me is that Brent Council reports that the landlord housed over 100 vulnerable tenants, earning thousands of pounds by letting sub-standard accommodation. My natural inqusitiveness leads me to wonder:-

  • Why was the payment of housing benefits authorised?
  • Did the Council refer any of these vulnerable tenants?
  • Should Councils be held accountable for making referrals and benefits payments in such circumstances? They may not know about the conditions of the property from day one but another question which I feel really ought to be asked is whether they continued to pay benefits after they learned about the conditions?
  • Also, did the Council immediately re-house all of those vulnerable tenants as soon as they found out about the appalling conditions they were living in, and if not why not?

Perhaps somebody would like to file a Freedom of Information request to check and report back here?

The Council will benefit from the proceeds of the confiscation order, but will they take any responsibility for using the tax payers money to pay housing benefits to this landlord? This is a rhetorical question, OBVIOUSLY!

I look forward to reading your comments.

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Comments

Neil Patterson

11:22 AM, 6th September 2017
About A year ago

Did the Council not notice they had 100 'vulnerable' tenants all at the same address ???

Sam Addison

10:00 AM, 7th September 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Neil Patterson at 06/09/2017 - 11:22
Probably only 26 at a time Neil.

Robert Mellors

10:10 AM, 7th September 2017
About A year ago

Why is the poster of this article suggesting that someone else file a freedom of information request, surely if he/she wants to see such information then he/she can file the FOI request themselves? I wonder what the hidden agenda is here?

Mark Alexander

10:21 AM, 7th September 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 07/09/2017 - 10:10
Hi Robert

No hidden agenda, I wrote the article.

I just wanted to load the gun for somebody else to send in the FoI so that I could then report of it "Wikileaks" style. Maybe I will have to send it in myself now that I have "outed" myself.

Dylan Morris

17:48 PM, 7th September 2017
About A year ago

It's not clear when the Court decision was reached but I assume it is recent. The enforcement notice was issued in March 2012 so what shocks me it appears to have taken over 5 years to deal with this issue. Also did the Council not have a system that flags up 26 people are claiming housing benefit at one address ? And if they did surely they would send an official round to have a check that the property was suitable ? Beggars belief.

Robert Mellors

18:58 PM, 7th September 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 07/09/2017 - 10:21
Hi Mark

Thank you for owning up to this! Yes, if you want answers from the Council then it should be you asking them. However, as someone who deals with benefits quite a lot, perhaps I can shed some light on the systems?

Although it may have been up to 26 people at any one time with the same address, they would all have different room numbers, and it is not unusual for there to be lots of people at one address with different room numbers, e.g. in a hotel or a hostel, so there is no reason (on that alone) for the HB Dept to be suspicious.

Why was the payment of housing benefits authorised? - If there was a valid tenancy (or licence agreement) and the tenant qualified for HB then the HB Dept would pay it. Some HB Depts send "verification officers" to properties, but many do not, and they would merely be checking that the person does live there, they would not be inspecting the premises.

Did the Council refer any of these vulnerable tenants? - By who's definition are the tenants vulnerable (is that just the media sensationalism)? - Whether vulnerable or not, if the Council referred them to the Landlord, then I think the Council should have checked the accommodation was suitable, but that is just my opinion. however, it is more likely that the Council referred the tenants to a 3rd party, e.g. a letting agent, and the letting agent then placed the tenants in that accommodation.

Should Councils be held accountable for making referrals and benefits payments in such circumstances? They may not know about the conditions of the property from day one but another question which I feel really ought to be asked is whether they continued to pay benefits after they learned about the conditions? - I think we would need to know more about the specifics in this case to be able to pass comment or judgement. (sorry, I have not read the case).

Also, did the Council immediately re-house all of those vulnerable tenants as soon as they found out about the appalling conditions they were living in, and if not why not? - Probably not, as the Council may not have had a rehousing duty to them under homelessness legislation, so if that is the case then they would probably have "given advice", e.g. go back to the letting agent and look for somewhere else to live.

Mike Amapola

12:04 PM, 9th September 2017
About A year ago

It sure does beggar belief. I'm sure the rogue landlord will now rush to pay the £340,000.00. (?)
Send in the Sheriffs, I say. Though it's possible that he is himself claiming benefits and living in a council house somewhere......

Chris Daniel

21:31 PM, 17th September 2017
About A year ago

There should have been a Rent Repayment Order applied for and made ( or does the total amount quoted include this ? )


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