8th March, 2022
I was contacted in February 2022 by the family of a 99-year-old grandmother and her 75-year-old autistic daughter, who, as joint tenants, had both been refused Housing Benefit (HB) by their local council, primarily on the basis their landlord was a close relative (granddaughter) and their close family ties, undermined any potential commercial nature that could have existed.
Prior to making their claim, they had lived in a property, owned by a small Housing Association, which was considered unsuitable, because the front door opened on to a busy road and there had been instances of the door being left open, allowing uninvited strangers to enter. It was also a good 30 minutes away by car from other family members, amking it more difficult to provide the much needed support.
Social Services had helped the family to organise 24/7-day care, supported by another daughter who visited daily, sometimes staying overnight. The granddaughter landlord and her husband had several properties, one of which had been identified as much more suitable to their needs, as it was only 5 minutes away by car from the extended family.
Although they were already receiving HB, the granddaughter contacted the local council to ensure there would be no difficulties with the move, as she had heard, HB couldn’t be paid to landlord relatives. The officer they spoke to was helpful, didn’t foresee any problems, other than the fact, the amount of award would be restricted and insufficient to cover the contractual rent of £1200 pcm. But as both joint tenants were receiving DLA (CARE) the family was confident the gap could be bridged.
Shortly after submitting the claim, the family received word it had been refused, on the grounds, the relationship between the parties was non-commercial in nature, despite there being in existence an Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement.
I compiled an appeal and submitted this on their behalf. Three weeks later, I wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive to ensure the appeal was processed as quickly as possible. I was also hopeful that by drawing his attention to the age and circumstances of the appellants, he would intervene.
My strategy worked, as one day later, I received a letter seeking clarity on one or two points I had made in my submission. I responded immediately, and later that day received confirmation the council had revised its decision in my client’s favour, agreeing to cover all the contractual rent.
The family was pleasantly surprised by the level of award, as they had been led to believe by the Council Officer, any award would only cover 50% of their joint liability. However, in my submission, I asked the Council to pay each the 3-bed rate, as they were operating a “common household” with the need for an extra bedroom to allow overnight carer stays. I supported my request by attaching a copy of an Upper-tier tribunal decision and DWP guidance that explained how this should be assessed, which the Council accepted.
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