HB payments while tenant in prison?

by Readers Question

15:55 PM, 10th March 2020
About 6 months ago

HB payments while tenant in prison?

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HB payments while tenant in prison?

I had a call from the Probation Service yesterday asking if I had any objection to my tenant returning to the property after his release.
I had no idea he had even gone to prison! Apparently he was taken into custody mid Feb and due for release at the end of March. The PS stated that Housing Benefit continues to be paid if a tenant is put away up to 3 months.

I has sent him and the council a letter stating a rent increase will be applicable from 1st April on his flat. Clearly he didn’t get this, but the Council were aware.

My question is –

1. Can the Council agree this rent increase (still under the LHA rate) before he gets out, or will he have to progress this on his release?

2. Will this situation force a trigger of him having to move to UC rather than a continuation of HB? It is only a rent increase of £50 a month. No other changes whatsoever.

Just want to understand the situation before I call the Council.

Many thanks

Reluctant landlord



Comments

SimonR

17:09 PM, 10th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Has got nothing to do with the council, the tenant receives housing benefit up to what ever the local allowance is and needs to make up any shortfall if any from additional benefits they receive. I doubt anyone at the council paid any notice to the letter you sent.

There is a possibility that the council will reassess what the tenant is entitled to and at that point may mean transferring on to UC

Marie

20:43 PM, 10th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by SimonR at 10/03/2020 - 17:09
A rent increase shouldn’t trigger a transfer over to Universal Credit, because it is not a “change or circumstances”, such as a change of address. Your tenant’s claim for Housing Benefit should be unaffected, but if the council require him to move over to Universal Credit, they will tell him when he submits the new tenancy agreement. Don’t worry about it right now.

Ray Davison

14:32 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Are you getting paid direct from the council? I' not sure what sort of 'life admin' you are allowed to carry out when in prison.

"1. Can the Council agree this rent increase (still under the LHA rate) before he gets out, or will he have to progress this on his release?"

As a hopefully helpful piece of advice for the future, why? As in why is the rent less than the lHA allowance? It helps no-one to set it any lower - Other than the council or DWP and god knows they both cost us a fortune - as the Tenant has the housing element of his benefit capped at the lower of the rent or the LHA rate.

reader

15:06 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Forget the increase until he returns from HMP. Keep the accommodation available if he wants it and liaise via his family. Don't forget LHA rates go up this April too.
My one similar case remained eternally grateful despite his occasion holiday thereafter at Her Majesty's pleasure

Bill irvine

15:13 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Hi Reluctant Landlord

The information provided by the Prison Service is correct.

Your tenant should have notified the council when he was admitted that he's be in for a short sentence. Anything 13 weeks or under is allowable.

The Council should simply treat his absence as "temporary" and continue HB.

In terms of the rent increase, he should also notify the Council of this. But there's nothing to hinder the Council accepting your notification, especially if HB is paid direct, as this creates an obligation on the landlord to notify the change.

Bill Irvine

WP

15:13 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Ray Davison at 11/03/2020 - 14:32
The rent charged at the mo is slightly below the LHA and it was coincidence that we decided to do a rent review now, as no idea he was in prison. The rent increase will make bang on the LHA so he won be due top ups. We get his HB paid direct to us.

WP

15:14 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Bill irvine at 11/03/2020 - 15:13
sound advice as ever Bill thanks 🙂 Much appreciated

Ray Davison

15:26 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by WP at 11/03/2020 - 15:13
Good stuff!

If you haven't been on one of Bill Irvines UC courses - I have but I may need a refresher as it was when UC first commenced and I think quite a lot of the processes may have changed - then I can highly recommend them. Join the RLA (Now NRLA) and they regularly have him run courses for them.

Bill irvine

15:47 PM, 11th March 2020
About 6 months ago

Hi WP
Many thanks for the plug about the courses.

You can find some of the details here: https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/courses/landlord_universal_credit_training_course.shtml#available-dates

Universal Credit is about to enter its last and most crirical stage, later this year when "Managed Migration" starts, bringing an end to Housing Benefit/LHA for all, but a few, "working age" (under 66) claimants. Around 4.5-5 million claimants will migrate during the process.

The process involves DWP notifying each claimant, they MUST migrate to UC. They're given a 3 month period in which to claim UC online. When they do, their HB/LHA is cancelled from the day before - UC "housing costs element" takes over - although there will be a 2 week run-on of HB as there is just now.

Most tenants should be able to cope with the transition without too much trouble. But, for those that don't, they could find themselves with no income (as JSA (IB), ESA (IB), Income Support, Tax Credits etc are ended) and no "housing costs".

In some cases (approx 40%) tenants will find themselves worse off under UC. But there's a Transitional Protection scheme that should cover any loss, at the point of migration. However, the protection can be quickly lost. So, you need to know how to avoid this happening.

I explain these issues and many more, during the session 10-3/3.30 with lunch included.

If you're a landlord invested in this area make the effort to attend or the likelihood is your tenant, at the very least, will lose out in process, making it all the more unlikely you'll receive payment of rent.

Bill Irvine


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