A quick blog entry to let you know of a couple of interesting cases we are currently dealing with. One of them is only potential at the moment.
(1) We are now going to appeal on a housing benefit issue where the landlord increased the rent and the tenant was receiving Housing Benefit under the old rules. The tenant claims he was offered a job which fell through and so stopped his housing benefit claim, then three weeks later re-claimed housing benefit.
The local authority have treated the new claim as a continuation of the old claim and therefore keeping the rent the same rather than moving the tenant onto the new higher rate of LHA.
The local authority are saying that the tenant stopping his benefit was a sham in order to achieve the higher rental and so the claim was not validly stopped.
The essence of our argument is, so what if it was a sham? There is no law that says a person can stop claiming housing benefit, nor is there a law saying just because somebody is entitled to housing benefit, they must claim. Therefore, the stopping of the benefit (for whatever reason) is perfectly lawful. So too was the reclaiming the benefit because at the time of reclaiming, he was entitled to housing benefit. The guidance states there should be a break of one week for the new LHA to take place (although I think one day is sufficient) but in this case, there was a three week gap.
(2) This is only a potential case at the moment but could be of significant interest nationally.
Basically, it relates to when a property requires a mandatory licence (three storeys and five persons). The landlord lets a 2 storey house but the local authority are saying that because there is a cellar with electricity meters, this counts as a third storey and so requires a licence (there is also a consumer unit and gas shut off valve but we plan to move those out before any appeal.)
The requirement for a storey that we are interested in is: “it is being used in connection with, and as an integral part of, the HMO” and therefore do meters in a cellar count?
As my colleague put to me yesterday, where do you do draw the line? If meters are an integral part of the HMO, does that then mean a water stop tap in a cellar is too?
It was slightly confusing at first how to appeal because essentially at first, the only way I could see this working was for the landlord to refuse to obtain a licence and then letting the local authority prosecute in the Magistrates Court. We clearly didn’t want this in case we lost the case and the landlord would then have a criminal record.
In fact, we can apply for the licence (which absolves the criminal offence element) and then appeal against “the granting of the licence” [sch. 5 Housing Act 2004] on the basis that it was not needed and the local authority should not have granted it.
Should all be interesting stuff.