Local Authority reclaiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax for 4 months?

by Readers Question

10:24 AM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

Local Authority reclaiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax for 4 months?

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Local Authority reclaiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax for 4 months?

I own a flat in Tyne and Wear with a DSS tenant,assured shorthold tenancy, no deposit (stupid I know).housing benefit

I recently received a letter from H Benefit saying my tenant has just left and therefore Housing Benefit has stopped-fair enough.

I have just received another letter stating that the tenant left in October and I have to repay nearly 4 months housing benefit!!

I also have the Council after me for 4 months Council Tax. My question is:
1.Why can Housing benefit not reclaim the rent from the tenant-they could do this by reducing the benefit on the flat that he’s moved to.
2.Why can the Council not pursue the tenant for Council Tax, I had no way of knowing that the flat was vacant and it strikes me as totally unfair that I am being asked for this money when the tenant was still legally my existing tenant-no notice given,etc,etc

Any advice your readers can give would be most welcome, I am sure this situation is fairly common!

Douglas



Comments

Neil Patterson

10:27 AM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Douglas,

We have another similar article about how long back housing benefit can be reclaimed as well for reference >> http://www.property118.com/how-far-back-can-overpaid-housing-benefit-be-reclaimed-from-landlords/44454/

Rob Crawford

13:26 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

Ah, the old claw back rule! Another good reason not to let to DSS. You have no visibility of the tenants benefits application yet the risk is all yours. So when did the tenant leave? No deposit! No matter what heart throb story the tenant or council tell you to get in,you must look at your properties as a business and don't resort to such risks.

Chris Byways

13:51 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

Interesting comments on that link. I note Bill towards the end said

"My point about the Overpayments was more about the fact, in the scale of issues, its importance is often exaggerated and used as an excuse for NOT taking on HB tenants. Of more importance, I would say, is the fact, some LHA tenants (albeit still a small minority) don’t have the same level of responsibility as working tenants, which can often lead to tenancies being terminated without notice, keys not returned, the property trashed etc. costing the unsuspecting landlords £000’s in lost revenue, with little recourse to recompense because of their financial status.

Thankfully, the majority of LHA tenants are not like that. Many are model tenants, living in your property for years with no problems whatsoever"

I have three so far this year with payments granted direct, and one more excellent Polish tenant who is employed seeking top up HB.

I watch with interest, do advise of outcome.

How did the tenant come to be on LHA, were they introduced by LA? Or fall on hard times since? Seems gross if you had no way of knowing they had skipped, without being liable to be accused of harassing them to ensure they were there every month. If the LA introduced the tenant, try a counterclaim for list rent........... Ha Ha!

David Price

14:16 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

The important point is that a tenancy still exists. The tenancy does not terminate when the tenant leaves only when it is properly legally terminated, either by the tenant giving written notice or the landlord obtaining a court order. The Local Authority is as usual targeting the easy prey, you.

Thus as far as council tax is concerned it is entirely the responsibility of the tenant. This is set out in section 6 of the local Authority Finance Act 1992.

The overpayment of Housing Benefit should be recovered from the person who perpetrated the fraud which, in this case, is clearly the tenant. Challenge the Local Authority and take the case to a tribunal (free of charge).

I do not pay Council Tax or repay Housing Benefit in the circumstances you have described and ALWAYS invoke the tribunal hearing. Mind you I have some right ding-dong battles with the LA!

don haley

15:26 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

i can only tell you what happened to me and this was with the hull city council is that they can only claim money back from the landlord if the landlord is paid direct and not to the tenant and in my case was receiving the rent direct from the council and lucky for me was only a few months they can claim up to six years back and can take from other tenants you have on benefit and by law they will have paid there rent and would say they are trying it on and will take advantage of landlords the hull city council and also the east riding council had dealing with are very corrupt and not to be trusted what they say after all they are only people who have great powers and they will abuse those powers.

Luke P

15:48 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

If the HB money was received in good faith, then they will not be able to claw the money back from you. If the agreement is still inside the fixed term, then send a copy to the Council and they are forced to bill the (elusive) tenants. If it's become periodic, it is much harder to prove when they were still living there.

Gary Dully

23:43 PM, 22nd February 2016
About 3 years ago

1. Lodge an appeal within 30 days.
2. Goto http://news.rla.org.uk/housing-benefit-LHA-overpayments-stop-council-recovery-abuse/

Read it and see if it helps.
The best you can do is appeal.

As for council tax - this has been covered before on this forum, but I can't remember where to look, but I think Romain has dealt with it, do a member profile search for him and read his posts.

Jonathan Clarke

5:35 AM, 23rd February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Douglas

Yes councils try to bully you. Don`t let them. All their departments are the same. Its their training which makes them like that.

They struggle to appreciate another point of view They view their customer base as adversaries. I do a lot of LHA. I`ve lost count of their administration errors and general incompetence. They are understaffed and have massive work pressures and employ low grade staff.

Be patient be firm and challenge. Treat it as an occupational hazard of doing LHA . The extra time cost of dealing with them though is far outweighed by the financial rewards of having an LHA strategy

I see it in that way to keep me focused.

Challenge them.

Good Luck
.

Clint

13:18 PM, 27th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Douglas

I rent out property to Housing Benefit tenants and it is a condition of the tenancy that rent is payable directly to me. I have found that HB tenants generally if carefully selected not only last for years but also provide regular income without having to have several changes in tenancies.

The rule of the game is to keep up with the law when new regulations come out. I have on several occasions had the council chase me for overpayments but in virtually all cases have had to revert back to recovering these from the tenant.

One of the first cases was when the council tried to recover around £6000 in 2011 for a tenant that had left in around 2008. In this case, the council tried to recover the money about 3 years later which obviously came as a shock to me. Without going into all details of the case, I appealed against the decision on the basis that I was not aware that the tenant had left and had also evicted the tenant (when presumably he was not living there which I did not know about).

On the day of the appeal two points had arisen and highlighted by the judge (not always a judge present at a tribunal) one being that the council was incompetent in that it took them three years to inform me of the overpayment and the other was that how was the Landlord to know if the tenant had left if he was not informed by the tenant and the council did not inform the Landlord in a timely manner. So ultimately, I did not have to payback the overpayment.

Coming back to your point, I have on numerous occasions had situations where tenants have either started work or have vacated a property without informing and these have resulted in overpayments of housing benefit demanded from me. On these occasions as I was not aware of the tenants activities, I have always informed the council of this and by law they are not able to recover the money from the Landlord where the Landlord was not aware of the overpayment being made. They have tried on several occasions but I always appeal and the cases have either been dropped or won at appeal.

Having read your case, I am feel certain that the council are legally unable to recover the money from you. I am rather surprised in having read all the comments above no one seems to be aware of this.

To go forward from here, I suggest you wirite to the council informing them that you were not aware that the Tenant had vacated the property as the Tenant had not informed you by any means that they had vacated or terminated the tenancy and consequently it was the tenant that caused the overpayment.

If the council still insists that the overpayment is payable by you, then submit an appeal stating that you are not responsible for the overpayment as you were under no circumstances aware that the tenant had moved out of the property if at all they did.

It worked for me in similar cases so I feel very confident that it will work for you.

See the link below for more information:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/484247/hbopg-part-2-classification-and-recoverability.pdf

Colin Brammeld

14:57 PM, 27th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Douglas.
Do not let the council bully you under any circumstance. Their action are in breach of the legislation but it is easier to target the landlord for recovery rather than scummy tenant. see copied info below. we use it all the time and never had a claw back in years from few pounds to several grand.

Can I point out that as long as the
landlord did not at any time collude
with the claimant so as to cause the
overpayment nor acted or neglected to
act in such a way as to contribute to
the period or amount of overpayment.
Reg. 101 (2) states that, where the
overpayment arose as a consequence of
a misrepresentation or failure to disclose
a material fact by or on behalf of the
claimant, the recovery should take place
from the person who misrepresented
or failed to disclose that material fact.

Regards
Colin

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