A London landlord is celebrating after successfully challenging a £54,500 Housing Benefit overpayment bill from his council.

The demand was made in July when a ‘cousin’ of the tenant told both the council and the landlord that the tenant had left the property back in 2017 – and insisted the landlord had been informed at the time.

The council then revised the benefit award retrospectively for four years, creating a £54,000 overpayment.

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd’s Bill Irvine (pictured) appealed against the decision, pointing out that the tenant had never notified the landlord and had even reported heating faults in 2018, allowed access to contractors and had continued to make top-up payments until mid-July 2018.

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Irvine believes that the tenant probably handed the keys to a friend or relative who then occupied the property, knowing that housing benefit was covering most of the rent.

Legitimacy

“I questioned the legitimacy of the council acting on information provided by someone other than the tenant,” Irvine tells LandlordZONE.

“The cousin had no authority to act on behalf of the landlord, however the tenant had an obligation to report the fact he had left to both the council, as a recipient of housing benefit, and his landlord, as he had agreed to this under the terms of his tenancy.”

Councils will pursue landlords on the basis that they could have known about a tenant’s activities and if they’ve got other benefit-claiming tenants, councils can take money from their payments until the overpayment is cleared. The DWP encourages authorities to recover these and if they’re successful, will award them a bonus of 40% of the amount.

housing benefit

It’s a way of generating income, adds Irvine, who advises landlords to either challenge decisions themselves or get advice, particularly if the alleged overpayments are for more than a few thousand pounds. He adds: “While that challenge is ongoing the council will supress recovery and you’ve got nothing to lose. Every time I’ve challenged one, it has been conceded.”

Read more about other housing benefit fraud cases.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Pray tell under what criteria could a LL be expected to know the UC status of a tenant!?

    Deceitful and institutionally corrupt councils especially the Housing Depts COULD make up any old excuse as to why they believed a LL COULD have known a tenant UC circumstances.

    As far as I am aware ‘clawback’ from a LL may ONLY occur where a LL is paid directly by the DWP.

    Which is why no sane LL would ever accept direct payment unless an eviction process is being carried out.

    Providing the rent monies reach the tenant or other 3rd party like a CU then the LL can NEVER be subject to any recovery of HB.
    Any recovery actions have to be pursued against the UC recipient.

    Only where it COULD be proven that a LL has conspired to defraud the DWP with tenant assistance would DWP recovery be appropriate.

    For that to be achieved a successful criminal prosecution would be required along with a POC order.

    Can’t see many Councils doing many ‘clawback’ prosecutions!!

    It is no surprise that LL are extremely reluctant to let to UC tenants for new AST.

    A LL can’t do much about UC if a tenant becomes a recipient after an AST has started.

    But at all costs a LL should avoid direct payment.

    CU are far more effective though a tenant may stop using one anytime they like.

    Tenants will of course just use the HB as normal spending money.

    The LL will need to evict which will take at least two years.

    LL are up against it.

    Personally I have had a flat empty since September.
    No way will I take on any proverbial DSS tenant.

    LL will continue to decline DSS tenants for as long as the DWP conspires against LL to prevent them receiving the due rent.

    Nothing will change here unfortunately.

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