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Thread: Housing Benefit suspended

  1. #1

    Housing Benefit suspended

    I am self employed (and receive working tax credits including disabled worker element).

    Question One: During lockdown my business had zero income so I informed HB and was awarded full HB. I then received the self employed income support scheme grant. Due to this I was asked to submit the last 3 months accounts. I was given 4 days to do it (7 day letter received 3 days later) and didn't meet the deadline but emailed asking for an extension. The email was ignored and my HB was suspended.

    I submitted the information required soon after and eventually it was reassessed and I was sent an award letter for full HB. I then told then my work was slowly beginning again and was asked for the latest 1 months accounts which I supplied within 3 days.

    However my HB is still suspended since mid July. Even though I had the award letter after the first assessment on 12 August.

    I found regulation 13(5) The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001,

    "(5) Where a person satisfies the requirements in paragraph (4), the relevant authority shall, so far as practicable, make, or as the case may be restore, the payment within 14 days of the decision to make or restore that payment." (See: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/.../regulation/13)

    I have emailed HB quoting that regulation but again they have ignored my email. I telephoned them and was told they had a huge backlog.

    What can I do to get my HB reinstated asap? There doesn't seem to be an appeal process against suspensions even though I believe they have not acted in compliance with the regulations as they should at least reinstate the HB for the months they have now assessed and made the award for.

    Question two: Theoretically I would qualify for the second SEISS grant as business has somewhat been down from usual. However I haven't applied and may decide it is not worth the hassle if it creates more HB problems. I am also worried in case the grant plus my current income should take it as a nil HB assessment because I have been paid up front for some things and worry they won't take some expenses into account. I maybe worrying too much. But should my HB be assessed as nil for just 1 month will that terminate my HB claim forever? Or would it just be nil for that month and carry on? (I dont want to lose HB due to the minimum income floor that would be applied to my UC, effectively meaning I would get little if any UC.Also there is no equivalent of the disabled worker element on UC. So I think I would be left to survive on my part time business earnings).

  2. #2
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    Three questions are needed to help clarify things:
    1. Were you already claiming Housing Benefit before lockdown?
    2. Have you made a claim for Universal Credit? It's not clear from your post.
    3. If you have claimed UC then when did you claim?


    Maybe getting a bit ahead of the answer to those questions but:
    If you have claimed Universal Credit then what you will now have is Universal Credit with the 'Housing Element' (from the DWP) and not Housing Benefit (from the Council).

    If you already had Housing Benefit before then if/when claiming UC it will have been 'migrated' to UC Housing Element and the HB claim closed.
    (The HB should have 'run on' and been paid for 2 weeks after you claimed UC).

    It is very important to make that distinction between Housing Benefit and UC-HE because they operate under different rules and regulations.
    If you have claimed UC your entitlement will be to UC-HE and so what you read about Housing Benefit will not apply.

    You can't appeal against HB being stopped if you have claimed UC.
    HB is just not payable if you have UC. (Except for some exceptional circumstances).

    From what you say then it sounds like that may be what has happened? - you have claimed UC and so HB has been stopped, but UC are being slow to add an Housing Element to your UC.

    SEISS:
    I'm not that clued up on SEISS, but I do know that it counts as irregular income from self employment for UC purposes. (and Housing Benefit and other IR benefit purposes).

    The first SEISS payment should be averaged out as income over the 'Relevant Period', I believe that means averaged over the current 12 months tax year.
    That calculation may be what is holding up your housing payments?
    It should be a simple enough calculation but if there are millions of them to do it will take time.

    From what I can see the next tranche of SEISS is specifically described as not being for any particular period, so I suspect that if claimed it will be treated as one-off income for that particular month. And as you rightly point out that could cause problems with other benefits.

    PS. If you have claimed UC then your Working Tax Credits will/should also be migrated into UC, but there is some debate about reinstating them if UC was only claimed due to Covid and if it wasn't made clear that WTC would be migrated to UC.
    Like a lot of things that situation is all a bit fluid at the moment.
    Last edited by nukecad; 02-09-20 at 14:00.
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  3. #3
    Thanks Nukecad. I understand there is a lot of confusion whereby people have claimed UC and still think they get HB. But in my case I have definitely not claimed UC. I have been on HB without a break since the early part of this century. My claim hasn't been terminated just suspended atm. I have no plan to claim UC as effectively that would mean giving up my business, so until I am forced over I am clinging to WTC and HB. My WTC is still being paid without problem touch wood.

    I have had the same argument with HB about what period the first SEISS grant should cover and argued it should be 12 months. HB insisted I get a letter from HMRC so I rang them up and got a letter stating it is. So they sent me a letter stating it was for 3 months ending on 30 June 2020. To be honest I was not convinced the Advisor who wrote the letter got it right but as it seemed to make no difference to my last HB Assessment as it didn't push my earnings above the limit where it affected my HB payment at all, I didn't bother to look into it or contest it further.

    The letter I have from HMRC also says the second SEISS grant will cover 3 months to 30 Sept 2020. Again I am unconvinced whether that is correct, but I guess the HB Assessor will treat it as gospel unless legally challenged. I guess I am going to have to try do my own calculations to try to predict how the second grant may effect my HB if I claim it.

    If it does knock out my claim though I just want to know if it would terminate it permanently or just the HB period it affects, then can get HB again the next month?

    I think if both grants are spread out over 12 months it would be better, that's another calculation I need to try to predict.

    (Edited to correct typo errors).
    Last edited by FaithKeeper; 02-09-20 at 15:42.

  4. #4
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    Fair enough you are still on HB and it"s just this confusion about SEISS that seems to be the problem.

    I've seen a link on rightsnet to a memo to councils about it, but can't link from this phone at the moment.

    If you go to the rightsnet forum and search for SEISS you should be able to find it, if not I'll do it when I get back home.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

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  5. #5
    Thanks I searched on rightsnet just now. It links to here : https://www.gov.uk/government/public...e-direct-42020

    This is actually the argument I have already had with the HB Assessor and I actually linked to that guidance at paras 37 to 41 and I argued it should be treated as income during the 12 months period falling within the last tax year 2019 to 2020. Their reply was "the information you provided relates to how HMRC will treat the income for your accounts for the current financial year. Not for the period it actually covers." So I am not sure they understood the guidance, or if it's me not understanding it?

    The confusion now means I am afraid to claim the second grant. Also if they have misfollowed the guidance then my council may be misassessing other HB claims from people who claimed the SEISS and possibly prematurely ending their claims. I am wondering thus if I should contact my MP about it?

    Any ideas what to do about the HB suspension? I read about judicial review somewhere but that sounds like something long complicated and expensive?

  6. #6
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    That's the one I meant, and as it's a memo to 'All Housing Benefit staff' it's hard to see how they can claim it's about HMRC and tax.

    I'm not sure what you can do for the best.

    You can appeal against a HB decision, and go to tribunal if necessary.
    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/be...efit-decision/

    Your problem is that appealing is not going to speed anything up, and may even slow things down.

    PS. I once had my HB suspended, (the DWP wrongly told them my ESA had stopped when it hadn't), that took me months to sort out.
    Luckily I have a good landlord and he did get the rent backpaid in the end.
    Last edited by nukecad; 03-09-20 at 12:20.
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    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

  7. #7
    Well I received a letter today reinstating my HB thank goodness, plus a warning they will be asking for my accounts again soon so I doubt the disruption is over yet if they decide to suspend while they sort it out next time! They used to assess my accounts 1 x per year before lockdown. It would seem they have discretion to assess it over whatever period they think fit, which can end up detrimental. So it might be a difficult case to challenge about the SEISS grant period, so looks like I best forget applying for the second grant as it's not worth having to go to a tribunal over I think.

    The problem with a suspension seems to be that if they haven't made a decision then there is no decision to apppeal against at a tribunal. I remember years ago my HB being suspended and it taking many months to sort out and having to use a credit card to pay the rent. I imagine people end up being evicted over these suspensions.

  8. #8
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    Some good new then.
    It does seem crazy that help available from the government is being negated by the council being numpties.

    As you have already found self employment and claiming benefits is a situation fraught with difficulties and obstacles.
    That's partly because it's a situation that is inherently open to fraudulent claims so they do lots of double checking.

    I believe that if they haven't made a decision in a 'reasonable time' then you can lodge an appeal with the tribunal anyway.

    There was a recent court case regarding Mandatory Reconsiderations for other benefits which ruled that as MRs have no timescale to complete then an appeal can be lodged if the DWP are taking too long.
    That should also carry over to councils and HB decisions that are taking too long.

    That leaves it a bit open over what is 'too long' and what is a 'reasonable time' to wait before you appeal, in the end that will be down to the tribunal to decide if it's reasonable to accept your appeal at that time or if you should wait longer.

    I also have no doubt whatsoever that people have been evicted for no fault of their own but because of a HB/UC-HE error or hold up.
    For a lodger that can mean 'instant' eviction, for a tenant it's a lengthier process.

    I do know, from a Landlord forum, of cases where Section 8 eviction notices for arrears have been served to tenants in those circumstances; which usually prompts the Council/DWP to get their fingers out rather than having to bear the cost of rehousing someone who has been made homeless.

    It's a bit tricky because technically eviction via the S8 route means that the tenants have made themselves 'intentionally' homeless (by not paying the rent) so the council don't always have to rehouse, which is how people without children or special needs end up sofa-surfing or on the street.
    On the other hand at the moment it's hard/lengthy to get a court date to obtain an eviction order, even after serving a S8, and you can't legally evict without a court order.
    Landlords are currently looking at least six months before they can legaly evict in most cases.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    Some good new then.
    It does seem crazy that help available from the government is being negated by the council being numpties.
    Yes, my grant is comparatively small but I can imagine a good proportion may be being clawed back from other people. It's potentially a good source of financial income for local government as they save on HB. I think with UC it's assessed the worst though.

    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    I believe that if they haven't made a decision in a 'reasonable time' then you can lodge an appeal with the tribunal anyway.

    There was a recent court case regarding Mandatory Reconsiderations for other benefits which ruled that as MRs have no timescale to complete then an appeal can be lodged if the DWP are taking too long.
    That should also carry over to councils and HB decisions that are taking too long..
    That's useful to know.

    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    That leaves it a bit open over what is 'too long' and what is a 'reasonable time' to wait before you appeal, in the end that will be down to the tribunal to decide if it's reasonable to accept your appeal at that time or if you should wait longer.
    A lot of uncertainty involved then.

    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    I also have no doubt whatsoever that people have been evicted for no fault of their own but because of a HB/UC-HE error or hold up.
    For a lodger that can mean 'instant' eviction, for a tenant it's a lengthier process.

    I do know, from a Landlord forum, of cases where Section 8 eviction notices for arrears have been served to tenants in those circumstances; which usually prompts the Council/DWP to get their fingers out rather than having to bear the cost of rehousing someone who has been made homeless.
    The HB notice of suspension letter did mention to let them know if you may be at risk of eviction. So does sound like they may prioritise your assessment in such a case, hopefully anyhow.

    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    It's a bit tricky because technically eviction via the S8 route means that the tenants have made themselves 'intentionally' homeless (by not paying the rent) so the council don't always have to rehouse, which is how people without children or special needs end up sofa-surfing or on the street.
    It would be pretty bad if the council found you intentionally homeless if you were evicted due to arrears caused by them suspending your HB! I shudder to think that that happens!

    Quote Originally Posted by nukecad View Post
    On the other hand at the moment it's hard/lengthy to get a court date to obtain an eviction order, even after serving a S8, and you can't legally evict without a court order.
    Landlords are currently looking at least six months before they can legaly evict in most cases.
    For the time being some tenants are safe. Will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

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