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Trudy B

Council Tax Benefit Visits

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Apparently the council want to come along and visit me instead of sending a renewal form for my council tax benefit. Lucky old me!

 

However, I do not want strange people in my house (and especially not men) and it is not a council house or rented. It is a private property.

 

Do I have to agree to this and does anyone know what legislation says I do?

 

I have no problem sending info, I do not want strange people snooping round my house!

 

I have no idea what my rights are here.

 

Any ideas????

 

T :)

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I have no idea of the regulations, but someone will no doubt come along soon and let you know, all I do know is a friend of mine had this visit to her own home, ie, not rented or council, it was the verification officer, so if yours is that then they are entitled to "verify"! They probably just want to make sure what you are declaring is true and there are no issues they should be aware of.

 

If you are vulnerable, can you ask someone to be there with you to help/witness what goes on?

 

Good kuck.

 

JQ

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Hi JQ

 

Sorry, perhaps I phrased that all wrongly.

 

I have no problem sending them accounts, bank statements, documents etc for income verifcation / council tax benefit renewal purposes ..... what I do not want grubby council people snooping round my house!

 

The tone and attitude of their letter, all fait au compli, all "this is what we are doing, you make sure you are in and waiting for 3 1/2 hours", is not acceptable.

 

Therefore I am trying to find out what my rights are and what rights of entry they have etc etc.

 

T :)

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Hi Trudy

 

Are you working or do they expect you to be there? I am sure if you closed all doors and took whoever arrives straight to one room, they would not have the opportunity to snoop.

 

I believe the laws have changed but, over 12 years ago I had the same issue, but they turned up unannounced, I was just leaving for the school run. They demanded that I let them in. I refused due to school run, they then said they had called before and I was not in, and why not? I wasn't working so why wasn't I in? We all know that when we are not working, we have nothing better to do than sit on our bums and do nothing, don't we?

 

In fact, I was running a charity, and helping several disadvanteged people deal with various things that they would otherwise be unable to deal with, as well as doing some business deals for a friend who was not capable herself (gratis), caring for my brother who is a mental health patient and packing up my mum's house because she had just died due to negligent mis-diagnosis! The council officer did come back and insisted that they go in every room, including the bathroom to check how many toothbrushes there were etc (I was a lone parent) and I was mortified. I had bags and boxes of stuff piled everywhere from my mum's, we could hardly move! I was so embarrassed and she treated me appallingly. I was already distraught at having lost my mum, I had to keep up with everything I had undertaken prior to that and now I was being treated like a ****** council tax benefit cheat!! I did complain and nothing happened. So, I can sympathise, but I hope with the Human Rights Act giving one the right to quiet enjoyment of one's home and family etc, that it is better now! After all, we are innocent until proven guilty and I had done nothing wrong!

 

Have a look on "useful links" thread it may have some gov't legislation that you can read.

 

I wish you well.

 

JQ

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It depends what you signed to in agreement when you completed the application form.

 

I know the application forms here have a phrase in the declaration along the lines of "This is my application for council tax benefit. I declare the information I have given is correct and complete" it goes on about understanding the right to preosecute if the information is false and then there is another paragraph which states that you agree to council employees visiting your home to verify your claim.

 

If you have signed to it, then they can some. But aside from that, with any claim to benefit, if a claimant refuses to comply with "reasonable request" then benefit can be suspended, sanctioned or terminated, so in view of that I would be careful about refusal.

 

Sometimes it is to look for signs of fraud - for example with a single person claim, to look for signs of a partner living there.

 

I am single but don't claim benefit however I often wonder what would happen if I did and they visited my home. My father is getting on a bit and my mum has severe alcoholism, and obvious mental health issues (undiagnosed as she refuses to seek help but isn't bad enough to be sectioned). Sometimes my dad will come here (I live away from family) whilst my brothers look in on my mother, just so he can get some respite for a weekend. It's only about once every few months but he has his razors and toothbrush and his other bits and bobs here, though no clothes as yet.

Edited by ErikaPNP

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

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I have had visits to verify my details have not changed for a number of years now. The lady asks to check your latest bank statement and the latest letter from DWP to state that you are still claiming benefits and then asks you to sign to state this is true.

 

At no time have they 'snooped around my home. They have always been extremely polite and respectful towards me.

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It depends what you signed to in agreement when you completed the application form.

 

I disagree; entitlement is set by legislation not by contract law. They have no power to set additional conditions.

 

They do have the power to investigate claims and can draw an adverse inference and in some case to terminate benefit if information requested is not provided. In this commissioner's decision the power is discussed from paragraph 45 onwards and it is clear that there must be a genuine doubt over entitlement, or a reaonable need for the information.

 

However I also agree with Jailbird that these visits are nothing to worry about and they don't snoop.


Post by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.

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Quick update here

 

Complete utter and total waste of time and space. Yes, it was nothing more than a fishing expedition to snoop round my house.

 

So they came round and I gave them all the info they asked for – I even photocopied it for them. Then I got their life story and although they had only ever worked for the council and only for a few years, with no degrees or professional qualification may I please add, they then started trying to dole out careers advice!

 

Off they go then they write back with more stupid questions, want more info and looks like they have made a whole host of wholly unjustified and unverified assumptions, all in their favour of course, and now want me to cough up money when I know full well that my income levels are below that which are needed to be entitled to full benefits.

 

I went through all of this hassle last year and here we go again!

 

Have asked them for shed loads of documents and information under Freedom of Information and also Data Protection Act – guess what – not so forthcoming – zero reply!

 

So instead of trying to help people, especially those in financial difficulty in this recession, it seems they are targeted on whom they can get away with bullying and getting money out of and not helping you and treat everyone like some benefits cheat.

 

Not happy.

 

T :mad:

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I know it's tempting to perceive that you're being singled out, but I think they do visit everyone. It's all very well saying just target the fraudsters, but how are they supposed to find out who that is except by checking claims?

 

Can you be a bit more specific about what they have got wrong? If you provided specific inforamtion about your circumstances there should not be any assumptions to make.


Post by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.

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Hi Zamzara

 

They don't target fraudsters, they treat everyone as benefit cheats and you have to prove otherwise or they get the bailiffs in!

 

Well exactly. That's my point. They have made various very incorrect assumptions regrding my income and have totally disregarded my accounts which include the business expenses. I went through all my bank statements and income and everything with the person they sent. Complete and utter waste of time.

 

It also looks like they are also trying to treat the money my mum gives me so that i can actually survive as income and my brithday money and I have had this checked and no way can it be classed as earned income or benefits - i get working tax credit.

 

I went all through this hassel last year and in the end it turns out that what they forced me to pay I was not due to and they had to give me a refund plus full benefits. It only got sorted cos i made a massive complaint when they sent the bailiffs letters etc.

 

Funny they demand this and that and the other but when you ask for copies of thier calculations and assumtions and various other awkard information under Data protection and Freedom of Information they go very very quiet!

 

They can't say they have not had my letter and thus info requests cos they returned the original documentation I sent them with proof of stuff they have asked for.

 

T :mad:

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The correct course of action is to appeal to a tribunal, not wait until they send bailiffs and then complain. If you don't appeal it's then very difficult to get the decision changed later, which I fully admit is not ideal. Unfortunately due to the messed up council tax system you always have an underlying obligation to pay, and claim back via CTB .

 

Generally most income is counted apart from some types of benefit, but charitable and voluntary income should be disregarded and you could argue that money paid from family to help you out fits this category.

 

There is no need to claim under data protection, as when you appeal they include all this information in the submission. The problem is you seem to be using the complaints system instead of appealing.


Post by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.

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Hi Zamzara

 

This year I have not got to any of those stages yet - they came round and got all the info they requested, they made whatever assumptions they did and sent a new assessment asking for money

 

With this new assessment the letter also said

a) please send us more info, they did a list. I sent this all to them and they have returned the originals.

b) if you don't agree with the figures let us know.

 

Therefore I sent the info above and I said no their assessment was wrong and here's the info to justify it.

 

Due to the hell they put me through last year I also requested various info and details of their asessment and calculations in advance.

 

Not a peep since.

 

If I request info I am entitled to under Data Protection Act there is zero reason why they should not supply it or are they above and exempt form this Act? I want that info now becasue i want to know what the hell they are up to and that's no way unreasonable.

 

Why should they wish to withhold information requsts regarding generic information under the Freedom of Information Act? What are they hiding here then?

 

What reason would they withhold information regarding calculations, assessments and assumptions if they are so sure they are correct?

 

Money from my mum and other help from my family is defo not income. If I earned enough income they would not have to send me charity money. It is a gift not income.

 

Anyhow, looks like I need to send them a polite reminder!

 

T :)

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I don't want to be pedantic for the sake of it, but I fear if you tell them it's not income it will confuse their limited minds as there is no provision for money you get to not be income; it's either income from earnings or income not from earnings.

 

However, some income is disregarded under Schedule 5 of the regulations, and you can definitely argue that a gift is voluntary income and therefore should be disregarded.

 

And the information about the decision should definitely be included with the decision, and at any appeal stage. And you can request general inforamtion under freedom of information as long as no exemption applies.


Post by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.

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Hi Zamzara

 

Great - That's very handy, I would very much like to read all about that - how do I get the information about the rules and regs Schedule 5?

 

Are there any links you can help me out with perhaps or is it available on the web or do I also need to write to them and ask them for this information too?

 

T :)

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The original is here:

 

The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006

 

I can't find a version as amended, but the main change to the issue in question is that child benefit is now also disregarded.


Post by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.

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Hi Trudy B

 

Just a wee note, you could try getting hold of a copy of the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook! It is from CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group), it should be in the local reference library and it has a telephone number in it where you can order a copy. Benefit claimants get it at a reduced rate of approx £8-9.00? It has lots of useful information, especially on earnings disregards! Also, if you feel you can't afford it, then if you get a member of your family to pay for it directly for you, it will be a third party payment and not a receipt of income!!

 

Good luck!

 

JQ

Edited by jqinfo
Spelling! Doh!

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