The RLA has helped a landlord win his case against a local authority that rejected a Housing Benefit claim by his elderly mother, the tenant.
The landlord’s mother was renting a house from her son. Although it was a legitimate tenancy, the local authority decided that it had all the hallmarks of being non-commercial in nature because the landlord and tenant were related.
The story began when the landlord’s mother was served with an eviction notice from her rented home. Because she was very frail, her son tried to secure social housing for her but was unsuccessful. The council advised them she would be better off looking for another home in the private sector, but there was nothing suitable, so the son decided to buy a property for his mother to rent.
Housing Benefit Claim Refused
The woman already claimed housing benefit, so they both assumed there would be no problem with a new claim, particularly as the rent was less expensive. However, the claim was refused on the grounds it was an abuse of the housing benefit system.
The landlord and his mother appealed and were given questions to answer. This went on for a while, with the council repeatedly asking for more information. Eventually, the landlord sought help from the RLA.
The RLA Steps In
Bill Irvine, an RLA trainer and expert on benefits, prepared a detailed submission to the local authority and requested a referral to a tribunal. He also wrote to the council’s chief executive to highlight how the council was using delay tactics and failing to resolve the dispute.
The letter to the chief executive prompted action and the council reviewed their decision, finding in the landlord’s favour. An award was made, and the housing benefit claim backdated, much to the delight of both parties.
A Previous Case
This case is not the first of its kind. Local authorities often refuse to pay housing benefit when the landlord and tenant are related. In a previous case dealt with by the RLA, a niece and aunt ran into similar difficulties and the aunt ended up facing bankruptcy because she couldn’t pay her mortgage when the council stopped paying her niece housing benefit, even though it had previously made an award.
When the case went to a tribunal, the judge told the council officer he had no grounds for altering the original claim and unless he could provide grounds, the appeal would be allowed. This demonstrates that councils must have legitimate grounds for revising or superseding a claim for housing benefit; they can’t just refuse a claim that has already been awarded.
The Law Supports Claimants
Both examples illustrate that the law generally supports claimants in such cases. However, it’s sensible to seek expert advice, as appealing against a local authority’s decision can be complex and may require presenting a case at a tribunal.
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