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BattenedHatches

Shortfall in Housing Benefit

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Hi,

 

Compounding the situation I previously I posted on (JSA penalty), the council have awarded me a housing benefit that falls well short of my rent.

To put the situation in perspective, a few short months back, my family and I (wife and 2 kids under 3) moved house (coinciding with the death of my uncle). The landlady was intolerable and fleeced as much as she could when we did leave.

We moved within the area and the same LHA zone, however with the arrival of a newborn a few months prior and with the various illnesses my wife has (requiring regular hospital visits) we found a place much nearer to my parents (so support would be easier). The rent on the property had been negotiated dropped significantly, however it was more than the max allowable by £60pw, which we decided we could somehow adjust for in our budget from other benefit sources (incidentally my wife has no recourse to public funds).

 

What I ended up receiving was a shortfall of £140pw, which is unsustainable, I called the local council and the person I spoke to suggested applying for discretionary hardship payments; he also suggested the amount I was receiving was the monthly adjusted amount as we moved in 2 weeks later by which time the benefit bracket had changed for the month (ie dropped). I applied, with reasons and circumstances well documented and was rejected by their simply stating my rent was too much, and not addressing any of the points I had made.

 

I then checked online and found that the max award had dropped by only £20 not the £80 that it appeared to have. So I called the council again and asked about it. The person I spoke to this time said that I should write in (including email) and state that I think I am on the wrong award and to have it looked at. Also in my rejection letter for the discretionary payment it says I cannot appeal but can re-submit my request within the month (due very soon).

 

Any help gladly received.

 

I am wondering how to word these requests appropriately; as I think I should do both. Obviously I will need to adjust the discretionary payment request, but I am not sure how to make the circumstances sound right. The person I last spoke to at the council, said that they sometimes try and penalise people if they think they are trying to benefit from an increase in award by moving. None of this was stated when the award was made and we were certainly not attempting to do that, however the rents in the area in general are quite high.

 

We signed a year tenancy agreement and the landlady is unaware of our claim as we do not wish it to prejudice her point of view and do not think it should be her business. We do however have a good relationship with her and the managing agent. If we do not find supplementary funds soon we will not be able to afford to pay the rent and I cannot see how we can have any better circumstance as a result; I foresee that we either get evicted and somehow lose our large deposit, making us 'very poor' or we strain relations with the landlady and go into debt and get displaced within 6 months as suggested by the associated Homeseekers advice team.

 

Any insight or advice gladly received

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:-)**VICTORY**:grin:

Just a follow-up to document what has happened for anyone who comes across the thread and interested to know:

 

After I called the council HB again to re-inquire as to how to go about asking for the HB to be looked at again, I spoke to a "benefits officer" who said that they had never come across my situation before. I was told that she had seen the converse occur on the odd occasion, where HB was reduced from the allowable LHA where someone had taken fewer rooms than they were eligible for. She said she would follow it up for me as a different team was handling my case (and this LHA zoning generally), but not to expect to here anything for a good couple of weeks.

 

Well, it only took a day or two and I got a phone call first thing in the morning (8:30 if I remember rightly). It was evidently an officer from my HB team (and possibly the awarding officer) and after a 45-odd min conversation where I was told that the regulation was in place to "restrict" my benefit and in effect I did not had no recourse and that I was therefore on my own regarding my circumstances with 2 young children under three and wife with serious medical conditions.

 

So I called back to speak to the person I had before (from the other team) and got someone different again and was told the other person was not available. I explained once more and got a more sympathetic ear and was told that maybe I should go and see an advisor from one of the 'HB advice clinics', which I did.

There, I was asked where I lived and as soon as I told them, they said they had thought so and that what was happening was 'unlawful' and I could state as much in writing to them. I also learnt about some cases brought against the council by advice agencies and followed that route.

 

I saw a solicitor who had dealt with 2 prior cases where the council had caved in on threat of legal action and within days of writing them with threat of judicial review through the High (Administrative) Court they replied back, correctly amending my HB with retrospective payement.

 

It turns out that the LA are the only known council to be implementing this 'unlawful' policy had already withdrawn the "restriction" back in June after the first case and that there are potentially a few hundred people other people in a similar situation that may still be under the restriction without it being remedied.

 

If you are one then fight back!

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I'm in a similar situation but I'm single. I rent a one bedroomed flat @ £575 a month. Council will only pay £461 and I have to make the shortfall up....pretty damned impossible on £64 a week as I was recently made redundant.

I've applied for that discretionary rent payment too but only this week and I'm really not holding my breath. They state a one bedroomed place should be £500. Maybe for a studio apartment but £575 is pretty usual round here and they HAVE to be aware of this.

It's not very helpful is it ?

 

Lynda~:rolleyes:

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Is it possible for you to name the council, just in case some of us do come across this issue?

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I live in Waterlooville near Portsmouth in Hampshire and my local council is Havant Borough.

 

Lynda~:)

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Hi Emma and Minkiesmum,

 

no problem naming the council (now my case is won and secured... not that they would have necessarily been drawn to this site):

It is Barnet Council (in north west London) - the team responsible are the "South Team" [ostensibly responsible for the LHA 'Central Zone' - highest rent allowance zone of the borough] (from my inquiries the North Team was not generally aware of this practice). As of 8th or 11th June (varies from source) they have withdrawn this practice as it had already been challenged by the advisory agency solicitor that took on my case and it had been contended to be unlawful (and also by a handful of other solicitors/personal requests); naturally they were wise to withdraw the practice. However they appeared not to have taken on board the solicitors request to rescind the policy and restitute those already affected, as evidenced by my case. This request has been re-iterated by the solicitor handling my case and a final letter to Barnet noting that restrictions have been lifted in all cases as well as mine (I don't know if this is 'conjecturing' to guilt the council into making retrospective amendments or actual acknowledgement!)

 

Minkiesmum;

from what you say it seems that they are already docking £40 odd off your eligibility for the month, which is more or less the situation I was in, though my rent is considerably more ( I understood that Barnet council were the only ones carrying this out [maybe in London] - it is based on a contentious government regulation [12 (B) (6) of The Housing Benefit Regs 2006]; it appears to be unlawful, certainly in the way it's been applied by Barnet)

 

Anyway, there is another situation that local authorities can 'reduce' the benefit they pay, but this is quite rare and I think they need to have 'very good' reasons and I don't know off-hand under what authority or regulation they can do it.

Unless you have already done so I suggest looking again at the LHA website for you maximum eligible rent rates for the month you applied for HB (based on a single bed property) and then if it is under this I would follow up with one of the advisory agencies like 'Shelter', Citizens Advice Bureau (if they are remotely contactable) or any other local advisory agency (as I have done for various issues), seek advice and your next step.

Do let me know how you get on and...

Good Luck!

Edited by BattenedHatches

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I live in Waterlooville near Portsmouth in Hampshire and my local council is Havant Borough.

 

Lynda~:)

Hi just noticed you've replied back:

 

the LHA site is:

https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Secure/Default.aspx

 

I did a quick calculation for this month (as I don't know which month applies to your application) for Portsmouth and came up with £115.38 pw (about £461 per 4wk month) which fits what they have awarded; which month did you apply?

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I found that site last night-yes, it was July. And I live in PO7. If I lived in PO10 (around 5 miles away) I'd get my full allocation as they pay £575 for a one bedroomed place.

 

Lynda~:rolleyes:

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