The Pointless Housing Benefit HelplineMake Text Bigger
I’ve just come off the phone to our local housing benefit “help” line, scraped myself off the ceiling and stopped terrifying the handyman (who is putting up shelves) with my expletives. Based on previous experience, I don’t know why I thought this call could ever be a productive use of time.
It begins with a tenant who has refused to answer my calls after not being seen at the house for over a month and is late in paying his rent top up as his LHA (local housing allowance) is paid direct to me. His room contains too many items to be considered abandoned and I’ve already served his Section 21 notice. Being the law abiding, decent landlord that I think I am and reading all the legal blurb, I consider that he still has a tenancy until I apply to court for a possession order. Until now, the LHA has arrived in the bank so I’ve been receiving half rent in arrears, but as of today I’m receiving nowt.
So, before jumping to conclusions, I contact the Council “help” line as I know that the tenant gave them permission to discuss his claim with me. All I wanted to know was:
Me: “Have you stopped the payment because the tenant has made a claim for another property?”
Call Centre Robot: “It’s been suspended”
Me: “Yes, I know. But has the tenant made another claim or have you suspended it for fun? E.g. has he moved on without telling me or has he not responded to your letters asking him to contact you?”
Call Centre Robot: “You’ll have to talk to the tenant. It’s been suspended.”
Me: “I have left countless messages on his phone, visited his local haunts and put out an APB for him amongst his ropey associates with no joy. It would really help me to know what to do next, legally, if I can get a better understanding of the situation.”
Call Centre Robot: “Madam, you will have to contact your tenant.”
Me: “Excellent advice which I hadn’t thought of, thank you. In the meantime, please let it be known at your pointless monthly Housing Benefit meetings that it’s a legal requirement for landlords to inform Housing Benefit if a tenant’s circumstances change but apparently you don’t have to let us know in return. Would you consider this to be fair?
Call Centre Robot: *Silence……..* “Talk to your tenant. Goodbye”
And the powers that be wonder why we’re all not rushing to provide homes for LHA claimants?! What really p****s me off is that, as I have to play by the rules, a good room has gone empty for a couple of months and I’m STILL going to have to apply to Court for possession in case he comes back to claim his manky, stained bed and the equally unappealing pants he’s clearly been missing along with all the other c**p that I wouldn’t insult a charity shop with.
Councils: Landlords are human beings too and capable of making common sense decisions. We are not all bastards and sometimes just want a little bit of information so we can do our job properly. I’m sorry you feel the need to treat us with disdain and hope that, one day, you’ll get the promotion and pension you’ve been dreaming of. HMO Landlady xxxxx
Reader, if this sounds harsh, I have a wealth of other equally fruitless conversations with Housing Benefit up my sleeve and am always very reasonable and haven’t yet raised my voice to the Robot.
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