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Significant rent arrears whilst on benefits - likely outcome?


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Hi,

 

My friend has schizophrenia and is on Income Support, Severe Disability Premium, Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

 

He owes approximately £4,000 rent arrears on a property he rented in London.

 

Could you please tell me what is the likely outcome? He does not live at that property anymore, but what can the landlord do.

 

Can the landlord recover the rent arrears via his benefits ? If so, how much can be recovered and at what monthly/weekly rate? I believe it is called a Third Party Deduction.

 

If anyone can shed any light on this, I would be very grateful

 

Thanks!

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What type of landlord are you talking about - Council, Housing Association, Private?

 

You say he is not living there anymore - has the tenancy ended, has he been evicted or is the tenancy still running but he is living elsewhere at the moment?

 

Money for rental payments including a contribution to arrears can be deducted from benefits. But I'm not sure if this can be done if the tenancy has ended - I think it's just for current addresses as the whole idea is this happens instead of court order to pay being granted or an eviction taking place. The money deducted for arrears would be about £2 to £4.

 

I know that social landlords often go for deductions and some tenants prefer this if they have problems budgeting etc as it's paid automatically. However, I don't know whether many private landlords apply for this.

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Hi Aviva,

 

Thanks for your response.

 

To answer your questions, it is a private landlord.

 

The scenario is this:

 

N handed his notice to quit Oct 09. N moved house, but due to his condition (schizophrenia) could not think straight or make judgements for himself and contacted the first landlord saying he had changed his mind and wanted to stay. A new tenancy agreement was signed for the first place. N continues to live at the second place and hasn't paid any rent for the first place, and the landlord hasn't checked his bank account so doesn't know.

 

So N has two homes, one which is paid for (his current place) and another (the first one) which is not paid for and which he does not live in.

 

Very complicated, but when you consider this guy has a form of schizophrenia which impairs thinking, logic and decision making, it's not surprising.

 

If the first landlord decides to take legal action to recover the £4000 rent arrears, will it only be a weekly deduction of approximately £2 to £4 maximum from his benefits? Can they deduct from all his benefits or only Income support (he gets Disability Living Allowance and Severe Disability Premium)?

 

What would be the best course of action right now? End the first tenancy by letter?

 

thanks so much

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Don't assume the landlord will automatically chase for the money if he would know the situation, a friendly letter to him explaining the situation and an appeal to him to solve this in a way all parties can live with would be much better. Maybe he is understanding and won't chase up someone with a disability for so much money.

 

Also I'm not sure if he would interested in chasing for it if all he will get is 4 pound a week/month of his benefits.

 

Weekly 52 x 4 = 216 = about 19 years

Monthly 12 x 4 = 48 = about 83 years

 

It will take a long time before he can recover his money, I'm sure there are nice understanding landlords out there too who could wave the money owed. I would try to appeal on that.

 

If the landlord insists in getting the money back you could argue diminished responsibility/capacity. But I don't know if that will be helpful in this situation as it seems only applied in criminal law not civil. But you should check with a solicitor if the decision he made to stay in the old house whilst not living there could be turned back on the ground of diminished responsibility/capacity.

Edited by StevenT
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I think they can only deduct from Income Support or JSA and not any benefits for disabilites.

 

If it went to Court the judge would make an order to pay based on his income so yes it would only be a few pounds a week.

 

Has he had post redirected from the address he does not use or has anyone gone to pick up post? I find it strange for a private landlord not to notice that the rent has never been paid. If the post hasn't been picked up then it may be that action to evict may have already been taken or is currently underway.

 

As Steven said it would be best at the moment to contact the landlord and explain the situation and see what their attitude is.

 

You could also try to get advice from Shelter or from a mental health charity like Mind or Sane.

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