Fergus Wilson Panorama documentary – now available on iPlayer22:10 PM, 18th March 2019
About 5 days ago 93
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.
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.
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