HB Tenant Lies to Benefits Office

by Readers Question

10:30 AM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

HB Tenant Lies to Benefits Office

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HB Tenant Lies to Benefits Office

On 14/2/2015 I received a text from tenant advising me they would be leaving. I immediately called the tenant to clarify the situation and to also confirm they were giving me four weeks notice, to which she agreed. The following day my husband and I visited the tenant to discuss the things that the tenant would need to complete in order for them to obtain the return of their security deposit. This was agreed and their departure date was fixed for 14/3/2015. HB Tenant Lies to Benefits Office

Thus was the first time we had ever had a HB tenant, so the system was new to us. I say thus because on the day of departure, the tenant had done almost everything we had asked for, but the issue I had was that HB had been paid until end of Feb, and two weeks rent was still due.

After much debate and tears with the tenant, which upset my husband as he does not like confrontation and neither do I but I suffer and deal with it, finally I had the tenant sign a document I had created which confirmed I had returned the security deposit, but also included from the tenant a written statement confirming two weeks rent was outstanding, and that she would continue to make the £35.00 p/week payment which the tenant had been paying to supplement her HB as the benefit did not cover the full rent, and she was to continue paying this until the outstanding rent was cleared. I really wanted to deduct the cost from the security deposit, but she became mortified.

The following week, I became mortified, when I received an invoice from Hyndburn Benefits Office clawing back rent benefit from the 17/2/2015. To the end of February.

I immediately 29/3/2015 called the benefits office explaining the situation, only to be informed I would need to appeal. More work, I thought, but I spent 3 hours producing full facts and figures which informed them I had been receiving benefit because the tenants were still occupying the home, well certainly their belongs were there when new prospective tenants were shown around. I also produced a letter to tenants advising them of the situation and informing them what the Council had told me as they had informed me that the tenant had told them they had left the property on the 17/2/2015 and said their tenancy had ended months ago.

The tenancy was for 6 months, and stated monthly thereafter. It also stated if the tenancy runs on into monthly, 4 weeks notice must be given.

In my letter of appeal I included all this information.

I finally received a response from the Council on Thursday 28/5/2015, advising me my appeal had lapsed, but confirming their decision to cancel the invoice they had sent to me as they would now claim this from the tenant.

Then in their next sentence they say “Housing Benefit can only be paid for the period that your former tenant was occupying the property. It goes on to say I will need to seek, for the additional two weeks, payment from the tenants.

Immediately I read this comment. I thought, they were occupying the home, (well certainly their possessions were), and how can they acknowledge only half of the appeal? My real concern with this statement is, if their words are interpreted correctly, then this means that any tenant can just up sticks and move on with no obligation to the landlord. It means for the landlord they do not have to honour their tenancy, they just walk away into the next home and leave the landlord and benefits office to thrash out the problem of rent areas, which the HB people don’t care, they just use the above statement.

I really believe the HB people are allowing these tenants to walk all over landlords if they refuse to honour the tenancy, irrespective of the fact that they have already had a copy of the agreement, and know, or are aware the tenant would and should have given 4 weeks notice.

I am wondering whether to further appeal to the Council, or should I just proceed to take the tenants to a Court?

Just wondering if anyone else has fallen into this trap where the tenant tells lies to Benefits Office.

Would be grateful for any advice.

Thanks

Doreen



Comments

Anthony Endsor

11:03 AM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Hi Doreen

Welcome to the world of Housing Benefit tenants.

You are absolutely right. The only people the HB people care about is themselves, and they will give absolutely no thought to the Landlord whatsoever.
I have to say, in all honesty I believe you've done extremely well to only lose 2 weeks rent. Many landlords I know including myself have lost thousands to these rogues, stretching over several years in some cases. You should have deducted it from the deposit when you had the chance really.
Housing Benefit tenants are a disaster and should be avoided at all costs. I wish you'd come here for advice before taking them on, as sadly it seems like the rest of us, you've learnt the hard way.

Andre Gysler

11:32 AM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Anthony Endsor" at "02/06/2015 - 11:03":

I echo the above and will go even further. Council staff will actually advise LHA tenants how to abuse the LL by 'advising them of their rights'! In the case of evictions this often means they will not move out until bailiffs are employed at your expense with zero hope of getting any of the legal process money back, along with arrears that will have almost certainly accrued.

The worst part is, the Council know what they are doing and yet still do it!

Avoid like the plague.Having said that, we have 2 properties let to LHA tenants, one with a guarantor and both had to pay 4 months deposit and 2 months up front (as most claims take this long to kick in). One of those has pocketed their LHA in the past and we had to intercept the payments direct.

It's about time that the Housing Departments at the Councils started to see that all they are doing is making a large chunk of the PRS refuse to entertain LHA applicants.

André

Sunny Rsa

11:50 AM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Hi Doreen,

I'm so sad to hear your story. I managed a portfolio of properties and I mistakenly sympathised with DSS tenants only to discover that they had come to rip me off. Unfortunately I have fallen into similar clawback traps before and I have lost a lot of money due to numerous problems. You have been lucky that your tenants have left without giving you a hard time otherwise it wouldn't have been worthy of your sleepless nights and hard earned cash chasing your rogue tenants for rent arrears or serving them section 8 notice.

I believe due to privity of contract Housing Benefit Department will clawback any Housing Benefit payments that were made directly to you if you were receiving the money into your account and you caused the overpayment otherwise they should not clawback anything from you. If your tenant misrepresented their claims without your knowledge then the matter is a criminal matter and not a contractual matter. You should report your tenant to the police and use this as a defence to your clawback when you make an appeal to the tribunal. I would like to hear from other people who have specialist knowledge in this matter.

Word of caution when it comes to DSS: Avoid Avoid Avoid.

Regards

Luke P

12:06 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

I let to both HB and non-HB tenants and have done for years (it's just the nature of the area in which I operate) and so have to deal with HB regularly across my 450+ properties. I recently had a meeting with my LA regarding this sort of issue (and a similar one involving C.Tax).

It is true that they will just take the tenants word for it as to when they stopped living at a property. Council tax is a slightly different problem as that has more to do with whether or not a tenant was the responsible party at a particular time, but HB say that they only have to pay HB for the property a tenant is LIVING in...that allows for a tenant at ANY POINT to declare they no longer live in your property (and the LA will likely believe them), regardless of whether they have a tenancy in force.

The example they gave at our meeting was that a tenant could, theoretically, sign tenancy agreements for a dozen houses all on the same day, that would make them legally responsible for the properties (for example with regards to C.Tax), but they will only pay HB for the one THEY (the tenant) says are living at.

I find this often happens when a tenant of mine applies for a council house -normally the process is that they are on a waiting list, they then get a phone call out-of-the-blue to say a property has come available for them and they must sign the very next day (or risk missing out). Obviously they do this (out of fear of losing a cushy council house) and despite LA properties locally having no carpets and many in need of decoration, coupled with the fact that the tenant was caught unaware of the prospect of by them being offered the property and moving house, means they don't actually move in for several weeks (they have to redecorate, re-carpet, pack their belongings etc.) but the LA take it upon themselves to take the date my tenant signed with them as the date they will stop paying their HB to me and to make me responsible for C.Tax!

On some occasions I have not only seen the tenants belongings still in my property (I'm not talking one or two items here, I mean a fully furnished, functional, operational house), but also the tenants themselves still clearly living there and called the meeting to clarify what it is I should do in a situation such as that to prove my case (seeing as they claim to be too under-resourced to send an officer out to check for themselves) and they made it clear in the first minute of the meeting that they would not be laying out a set protocol for me to follow and that I should just contact them (the heads of the dept) on a case-by-case basis.

According to them, they only have to establish a primary main residence and even if you say different, in the absence of any concrete evidence (remember that they won't go out to the property themselves which is highly frustrating when I am stood in front of my tenant who is clearly living in my property), they won't budge on their position.

I am now, after 25+ years in the industry, considering refusing LHA/HB tenants altogether!

12:38 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Hi Doreen - I have had this happen and had the Council say similar in that they want their money back. I have always then replied and stated that irrespective of this the RENT was due for the period in question, irrespective of WHO pays it, and that they are not due any funds returned and if they feel they are then chase the tenant. This tactic has always worked for me so far and I suppose as a lawyer they realise they would have a fight on their hands if they disputed it. I would chase the tenants for the full amount due.

Doreen Marr

13:06 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Thank you Luke, Sunny, Andre & Anthony for your comments. I really feel the council do have an obligation to correct their system and their procedures, or all Landlords will have no option but to refuse HB tenants, unless, of course, we feel sure they are not going to tell lies, which truly I thought I could trust these people, but they just played me, well that is the only resolution I can think of as I really am not a drama person.

Normally I would just not bother about 2 weeks rent but I believe someone some how has to make a stand with these people. Obviously Luke felt the same hence the reason for the meetings he had with them, which clearly did not work, even their words that they would not be setting any protocol shows they operate according to their own law... It is either that or maybe this is the way the real world works, and there are no systems or rules for us to follow, because the rules they are playing with will only isolate them, then where will they go?

I am wondering whether to take the ex tenants to Court, so they do not do it again, and I wondered if anyone had been successful in taking people to Court with the issue of non payment, with the tenancy having fallen onto monthly. At the same time I was thinking of getting our local Councillors Nigel Evans involved together with others because at some point someone has to be accountable, and legally there must be some rules that have to be followed.

I am just wondering whether to put all this work and energy into getting this resolved or whether to just walk away, now I know how the HB system works. I know, for a fact, due to an incident with my sister-in-law was involved in, some of the stuff the HB officers advise tenants to do, are bad, they force tenants to go into debt which results
in tenants having bad credit, CCJ's and all the stuff people used to consider taboo, the council HB officers, leave them no option but to do it their way which results in all this poor legal credit stuff, which wastes the Courts time, and doing it their way in the end then they turn around and separate the families into hostels or B & B's , when really they should have addressed the problem when the tenant first went to see them, when they confide in them their proble. All this suggests that the systems the HB operates are wasting everyone's time. Years ago, this type of advice would be seen as poor advice and this is how I still see it. Something has to happen to stop this form of advice and operating continuing, hence me wondering which way to swing with this and wondering legally which would stand up in Court, it is not right that HB support and allow Tenants to operate in this way, which leaves them with laughing at Landlords, and giving Landlords so much frustration over these issues.

Thanks for any advice.

Doreen Marr

13:18 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Thanks Peter, that is exactly how I feel, and that is just what I did when I wrote back to HB. But really as you know, this all takes up all our time to fight this silly situation which HB rules allow and supports tenants to treat us this way. It breeds bad ethics, it leaves people with unethical behaviour, hence me pursueing this issue, it really is not worth all this effort, but if no one makes a stand the bad advice continues.

Luke P

13:37 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

My father who is also in the industry has a different approach to me. He believes (as do I), the LA have certain duties and responsibilities, but where we differ is that he thinks these should happen no matter what -even if there is no money to police the system, make the checks etc. As much as I would like to make the Council do their job correctly, you can't get blood out of a stone and if there is no money, then what can they do?

I've asked my father what he thinks the ideal outcome should be and he's of the opinion that if it is found that the council are completely unfit for purpose (as he believes), then they should be shut down, everyone fired and that's that.

The Govt. will never let that happen. Someone has to 'run' things, even if it's running badly. So I am of the opinion that nothing will be done. The government know there are problems but will allow them to continue regardless.

The future of this industry will be licences, capped rents/restricted rent increases, and tougher S.21 notices. That way we can really be used to plug the housing gap and are under the Govt's control.

Doreen Marr

15:04 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

Thanks Luke, I think your father is right. I really do not believe licenses are the answer, or rent caps or anything else. There are landlord out there, and tenants out there who both do not want to play by the rules, then there are those tenants who are less intelligent who get sucked in with the wrong type of landlord who think he will follow the rules, but he won't, he will want them out, end of story. He won't follow the those rules. What will happen is that the honest landlords will just stop renting because of the terms and conditions that have to be followed, it will not be worth the trouble. Ther Council know there are tenants that leave homes in terrible condition, they have been on the receiving end, and this form of tenant is also too costly for a private landlord.

There are no answers to this problem, other than making tenants responsible for their actions, and landlords responsible for their actions, and let the poor ones from each section by the law of nature, seek each other out. That will be the natural progression, and really the only answer, but accountability has to play its part. The rules and red tape just drive people away or underground.

Many Tenants that are desperate because there is no proper help from HB end up falling foul of a landlord who does not care and he rents to them because he can, and they have no opton, through lack of choice, other than to live there. This situation will not change, with or without the rules.

We are drifting from the subject but I do believe there are landlord out there who know they are renting to illegal immigrants, but it's the same problem. There will always be those people do whatever they wish and want to work outside the structure, but sadly the existing structure is corrupt and that flows down the line.

Carol Thomas

15:06 PM, 2nd June 2015
About 3 years ago

I am surprised that so many LL take HB tenants. All of my mortgages state No HB, so I don't even consider them. Mind you, ordinary tenants can be just as bad, if not worse. Stick to your guns!

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