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Hi, I hope someone can offer me some advice regarding the following:

 

I am due to attend a tribunal hearing tomorrow to appeal against a decision to recover overpaid CTB. Although the council in question have admitted it was an "official error" on their part, they maintain that it was "reasonable" for me to have realised the error at the time.

 

The error in question is that I was awarded 100% CTB when I should have been awarded 50% due to me sharing the property I live in with another tenant. I did not question the decision at the time as I had provided them with all the relevant information (on more than one occasion), and trusted that their calculations were correct based on what I had provided. I am also self-employed and consequently the benefit and WTC I receive fluctuates throughout the year, so when I received a letter telling me it had changed again I did not believe anything was amiss.

 

Their argument seems to assume a detailed knowledge of how CTB is calculated that I could not possibly have unless I actually worked for the department! (although it seems this would still be no guarantee... ;-)

 

Having taken some legal advice I have decided to continue with my appeal and am due in court tomorrow. The solicitor has advised me that the Tribunal will take an "inquisitorial" approach, requiring me to give my version of events which I have outlined above.

 

I would like to ask if anyone has experience of these kind of Tribunals and what I can do to give myself the best possible chance of winning the case.

 

Many Thanks in advance!

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Is it a joint tenancy or is the tenancy in your name?

 

 

Whose name is the council tax bill in?

 

 

Did you give details of your housemate?


We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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It's a joint tenancy - the council tax bill was in both names and I provided details of the other housemate. After providing all the correct information a number of times they still calculated the my CTB at 100% (although it never actually stated this as a percentage in any of their correspondence, just the weekly amount I would receive).

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Was your housemate still paying council tax?


We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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No, I was paying it on behalf of both of us. They were responsible for other bills.

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I think it's a difficult case to make and you would need a very understanding judge to be successful.

 

 

The only argument you could make is that (if you told the council that you were paying council tax and your housemate was paying other bills) you have no knowledge of benefit law at all and had assumed that this was allowed as you gave all of the information to the council.

 

 

It is difficult because an assumption might be made that logically a person would realise that as benefit is paid for council tax and not for other bills, that the housemate would be responsible for 50% of the council tax regardless of what private arrangements you have made. Though I have seen judges 'accept' an appellant's assertions of ignorance of the system, because they are scornful of the idiotic actions of the LA.

 

 

I've found it often helps if the appellant is able to show that they have a history of misunderstanding these types of things. For instance, as a former benefit adviser, I could never make the case that I misunderstood the rules, but an elderly lady whose deceased husband used to manage all financial matters could legitimately make a case for not being able to make a logical jump about how these things work, as could someone with mild learning difficulties or mental health problems - basically anything that at the time could 'get in the way' of thinking logically about what was being awarded. Do you have anything like that which you could put forward in mitigation?

 

 

Does that help at all?


We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Thanks - yes that is helpful (although not quite as encouraging as I was hoping!)

 

TBH the LA in question makes mistakes with my benefit on such a regular basis that I never know whether it is correct or not. Every time there is a change in my circumstances (which happens quite often due to my self-employed status) they send pages and pages of "calculations" which are supposed to show how my benefit was worked out. I have never been able to make head nor tail of these - would this qualify as "ignorance of the system"?

Also, at no point did they explicitly state that I was receiving 100% CTB, just the weekly amount. I assumed that the amount I was receiving was correct at the time as I had provided them with details of my income, my tenancy agreement, and spent hours on the phone and in person confirming everything with them, as they seemed unable to update their own systems.

Not that I'm ungrateful for the help I receive, but I am consistently amazed at the level of incompetency from this department (is this common amongst LA's?)

 

Thanks again.

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All you can do is explain what you just wrote to the judge and hope that they see it your way. With cases like these it's difficult to know how the judge is going to interpret the 'could have reasonably known they were being overpaid' part.

 

 

Maybe take with you the pages and pages of calculations to show the judge how difficult for the layman it is to understand whether the calculation is correct or not.

 

 

The three things you have to show is:

 

 

That the LA made an error.

That you gave all the information required of you.

That you could not reasonably have known you were being overpaid.

 

 

Yes incompetency of LA decision makers is very common in my experience. Some of the errors I've come across have completely amazed me. Even in my own claim since I became ill, each change of circumstances has needed 4 to 5 emails from me to correct errors. So you're not alone in being a victim of this. Sadly with HB and CTB, unlike with DWP benefits, there is this added requirement with overpayments that you need to prove that you could not reasonably have known you were being overpaid in order to make the overpayment 'unrecoverable due to official error'.


We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Fair enough - well thanks again. Will post on here after the decision has been made to help anyone else who finds themselves in a similar predicament.

 

BTW were you aware that the petition group 38 Degrees is currently running a campaign about our voting system? In case anyone is interested check out https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/

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