Doncaster v Coventry City Council, First Tier Tribunal 032/09/00932, 5 October 2009.
This was an appeal of a review decision addressing at what point a tenant is in 8 weeks arrears for the purposes of the landlord applying to the Benefit Authority for direct payments of housing benefit.
Regulation 95 of the Housing Benefit Regulations provides that where a tenant is in arrears to an amount equivalent to 8 weeks or more of rent, HB can be paid to the landlord directly, once the landlord has notified the Authority.
In this case, a private tenancy, rent was payable in advance, on a monthly basis, as is usual. The rent was payable on the 16 of each month. The tenant didn’t pay rent on 16 August 2008 and then again on 16 September 2008. On 17 September, the landlord requested direct payments under Reg 95 from Coventry.
Coventry refused on the basis that the tenant cannot be in arrears until the period for the rent has passed and as the rent was for the period 16 September to 16 October, the tenant wouldn’t be 8 weeks in arrears under the Regs until 17 October. On 22 October, the landlord made a further application for direct payments and these were set up, leaving the period 16 September to 15 October outstanding.
The decision was upheld on review. The landlord appealed to the Tribunal. Shortly before the hearing, Coventry conceded the appeal, but said that they could not pay for Sept/Oct as there was no power to pay twice (the payment had been made to the tenant).
The Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance Guidance Manual as amended in March 2008 states that rent cannot be in arrear in respect of a period that has not been served. This is wrong. (So the normal rules of when rent is due apparently apply).
The appeal was allowed. Although it was right that there was no power for the LA to pay twice, compensation was payable in this case and should be paid immediately rather than after a protracted complaint to the Ombudsman.
The answer then is that eight weeks can be as short as 4 weeks and a day. Thanks to the Guild of Residential Landlords – who supported the appeal – for the details.