An Upper Court Tribunal has rapped a council and First Tier Tribunal on the knuckles for leaving a landlord out of proceedings when trying to claim back a Housing Benefit overpayment, highlighting the vortex of red tape involved when councils try to claw back payments off tenants.

The First Tier social entitlement court had dismissed the tenant’s appeal against the claim but the Upper Court ruled that it made a legal mistake by failing to appreciate that his landlord should have been added as the second respondent.

The tenant’s Housing Benefit was paid directly to his landlord but, after he had lived away from the property for some time, West Lindsey District Council decided he was not entitled to the benefit and was liable to repay £2,020.97 for a six-month period. The council tried to recover this from him – not the landlord.

Obvious

The Upper Court ruled: “It was apparent from the evidence that Housing Benefit was paid directly to the landlord and that recovery of the overpayment was being sought from someone else. 

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“It should have been obvious to anyone reading those regulations that the landlord needed to be joined as a respondent to the appeal.”

However, the judge added that the tenant shouldn’t see this win as an indication of success at the next hearing, where it will be decided exactly who is liable. 

housing benefit

Expert Bill Irvine (pictured) says it’s unusual that the council chose to pursue the tenant but that the ruling restates the law, which can be complex and difficult to understand without professional help.

He tells LandlordZONE: “It appears there has been a change in circumstances here which wasn’t reported. There are myths around overpayment – the general rule is you’ll be asked to repay, but landlords have the right to challenge this if the tenant has made a misrepresentation or failed to disclose information.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is another reason landlords and letting agents do not want to rent to DSS tenants.

    The Council was right and so was the First Tribunal. The Upper Tribunal is wrong. If the tenant has spent their benefit money at Tescos. Would they be trying to reclaim benefits from Tescos?

    Why are landlords treated differently?

    When a prospective tenants wants to rent a property, using benefits. I have no idea what a potential tenant, is entitled to or not. Nor do I have rights to see on what grounds a tenant is making an application for benefits. These councils will hide under data protection, so will not disclose private details to landlords.

    They don’t want landlords to discriminate against DSS tenants, but also want landlords to be screwed by the system. If the benefit office is n’t going to pay the rent, the landlord cannot just kick out a tenant. A landlord is n’t following a tenant and checking up they did 18 hours work, rather then 14 hours.

    The Upper Tribunal may have helped out this tenant, but at the expense of all those tenants looking to rent using DSS.

  2. Hi Anon

    The UT tribunal judge set aside the first tier tribunal’s decision, as the Council overlooked to include the landlord in the overpayment proceedings.

    In setting aside the original decision, remitting the case to another differently constituted tribunal, he is simply allowing the case to be reconsidered, permitting all parties with an interest in outcome to attend.

    The likelihood is, the new tribunal will find the tenant culpable, as the law dictates the person, at fault, to be held culpable.

    Bill Irvine

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