Housing Benefit, Home office and 7 months arrears debacle solvedMake Text Bigger
Most Landlords are still trying to get their head around the Governments “Right to Rent” legislation and the effects and implications the new legislation has on them, so when they are dealing with tenants with “Leave to Remain” and suddenly this ends and their rent payments end, not only is it scary, but they don’t know what to do next.
Our PRS client approached us after his client’s Housing Benefit ended. The landlord had put the property on the market and issued the tenant with a Section 21 notice. When the tenant received the notice, the tenant brought a copy to Housing Benefit. On the date the notice expired the Housing Benefit Claim was cancelled.
The landlord contacted Housing Benefit to find out why the claim was cancelled and was advised that they were informed that the tenant had vacated and they had a notice on file. The landlord explained that the tenant had not vacated yet as he had not been ordered by the Court to do so and that the last Housing Benefit award had been paid to the tenant upon his request.
The landlord contacted the tenant who confirmed that he had received the last Housing Benefit payment, had spent it and was still living in the property. The tenant contacted Housing Benefit and advised them that he had not vacated and was asked to provide written proof, which he did.
After two months the claim was still not in payment. The landlord contacted Housing Benefit and was given various different reasons as to why the claim was not put back into payment. After several failed attempts to have the payments reinstated to the landlord the matter was referred to Caridon Landlord solutions (CLS) for us to try and resolve the dispute.
When we took on the case, we immediately highlighted Housing Benefits flaws. The council had failed to suspend the claim and write to both parties before a decision was made on who to pay.
Based on this fact, and a few other issues, CLS submitted a Stage 1 complaint to the Local Authority. Initially, we never received a response under the mandatory response guidelines so we escalated the complaint. By this time the tenant was 7 months in arrears, totalling a whopping £8000.
The HB team conducted a check on its DWP IT system and saw that the tenant was not in receipt of JSA for the period in question; there was an issue with his visa; and he now had no recourse to public funds.
We contacted the tenant, who advised us, he had appealed against the Home Office decision and was being backed by his local MP. We submitted all this information to the Benefit Appeals Officer and worked closely with the tenant to sort out his appeal with the Home office.
Two months later the tenants appeal was successful; his leave to remain was reinstated and his JSA restored. There remained the question of the potential backdate of his HB award.
Not only did CLS manage to get the claimants JSA claim backdated, but this, in turn, permitted the claim to be backdated, which fully cleared the rent arrears which had accrued. The Landlord was finally awarded payment of HB to extinguish the rent liability and full amount of rent arrears.
He was also awarded compensation, from the Local Authority, to compensate for the “first payment” of housing benefit that had been wrongly paid to the tenant and then was misused.
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