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Really worried about Housing Benefit, please can somebody help?

(17 Posts)
LonesomeDove Tue 04-Mar-14 15:48:57

I'm almost being sick with fear about this, am in tears and I can't find any information available online. Have tried calling Shelter helpline multiple times and got cut off and then automatically put through to recorded message. Please help.

Basically I swapped rooms in my flat and my rent has gone down by £20 per month. I have also become the lead tenant on the tenancy since Christmas (flat share with two others, we're all independent, not family etc) so they pay their rent into my account and then I pay the lump sum for the whole of the property to the agency.

Housing benefit are asking for several months of bank statements (I am self employed and think this is normal) and I'm worried they will see my flatmates rent coming into my account and think that it is extra "income" of mine and will cut my benefit. Also if they see my rent has dropped £2o per month will they take £20 off automatically anyway?

After I pay rent out of my earnings and current amount of housing benefit, I am left with £246 per month to live on. My travel to where I work costs £80 per month, leaving the rest to pay bills and eat. So losing even £20 is a huge deal to me right now - I am just about keeping my head above water as it is.

I don't know what to do, please can somebody advise?

Posting in AIBU because I'm literally so anxious I can't work out if I'm worrying for nothing, that they probably won't reduce my benefit at all? Or will they possibly reduce it/ stop it?

Anonymai Tue 04-Mar-14 15:55:38

You should have informed them about the rent changes. If you get more HB than your rent, that's not right and it should be reduced. If your HB doesn't cover your rent anyway, they won't cut it.

Not sure how the lead tenant thing works but if you have a paper trail, it should be easy enough to prove that money is their rent.

CajaDeLaMemoria Tue 04-Mar-14 16:00:18

You'll need to set it up so that they pay individually, or get a letter from your landlord saying why this can't happen. That will save trouble down the line.

You will lose the £20 a month, they got rid of any allowance for keeping 'extra' a while back - and I'm sure it was only £15 then anyway.

You do need to keep them up to date on changes, but if you are open now, you've got nothing to worry about. They'll see the exact amount entering and leaving your account straight away, so you'll be fine.

Viviennemary Tue 04-Mar-14 16:02:37

I think it would have been better if you all had an individual agreement with the landlord rather than you being the lead tenant. Am I right in saying that means you are responsible for paying the whole rent if the others don't pay. And you should certainly have informed HB of any changes. This will take some explaining. They are going to wonder why all the rent is paid to you. Is the owner of the flat a relative?

LonesomeDove Tue 04-Mar-14 16:40:43

No! The landlord is not a relative, I am the lead tenant because I knew I wanted to stay on at the property when the agency were pushing for a decision as to whether we would keep the flat on two months before the lease finished. One guy ended up staying and I found another person for the spare room. The agency want the rent to come in in one lump sum on rent day.

On the contract, we are all responsible for the rent, all our names are on it - so its not just me. Its a joint tenancy I think its called, and seems common in London?

I do have a paper trail as such on my bank statement that when their rent comes in it goes straight out again to the agents with the name on it?

I'm absolutely not keeping any extra, my Housing Benefit does not cover the cost of my rent at all. It covers about 60%. I am in London and my rent is reasonable by London standards.

Should I write a letter detailing all these circumstances to send in with my bank statement?

LonesomeDove Tue 04-Mar-14 16:41:38

Thank you for the replies and information, sorry I forgot to say I appreciate it. thanks

Viviennemary Tue 04-Mar-14 16:51:11

I wasn't meaning to be picky but that is the questions they will probably ask. I think it is a good idea to write a covering letter. And maybe try CAB as well. Hope you get sorted out.

FoxesRevenge Tue 04-Mar-14 16:55:01

I imagine if the statement shows the names of the tenants paying in and then the same amount plus yours going out to the Landlord name then this shouldn't be a problem. Just make sure you add this to the covering letter.

elmerelephant Tue 04-Mar-14 18:51:00

If you are renting privately, you will be receiving LHA not HB. LHA is based on a room rate set by your local council and not your actual rent, so a change in your rent has no impact, the calculation is done on your income only. You do need to tell them tho as the rates are changed in April.

As for the rent from the other tenants, if its queried , they will be able to provide written statements as to the circumstances, so it shouldnt be a problem.

hope this helps

MistressDeeCee Tue 04-Mar-14 18:54:37

OP - Go to Citizens Advice or your council's One Stop Shop. You need to be clear where you stand and for that you need helpful, specialist advice. It may be that there's a HB overpayment but they won't take it all back at once, they'll do it in stages.

scott2609 Tue 04-Mar-14 20:02:57

Hi LonesomeDove,

I work as a legal housing adviser and so hope that I can help.

You need to inform housing benefit immediately that your rent went down by £20pcm, and the date this was in place from. Even if your housing benefit didn't cover the rent in full before the £20 reduction, and even if it still doesn't cover the rent in full now after the £20 reduction, you need to let them know regardless.

This is because your HB award is calculated according to your income and your rental charge. As such, it follows that if your rent has been reduced, that your HB entitlement will be reduced as well. Because your rent has only gone down by £20, it's likely that your HB entitlement will have reduced by a very small amount.

Try not to worry too much about this- the likely outcome (if your HB entitlement has reduced as a result) is that you will have had a HB overpayment. The overpayment is deducted from future HB payments automatically. It's usually paid back at a rate of about £10- £15 per week. If your HB award only amounts to that much anyway, it's likely you wouldn't have a HB entitlement until the point at which the overpayment had been paid off in full.

You can request that the 'clawback' rate is reduced on the grounds of exceptional hardship, but you would likely have to complete an income and expenditure form for this.

Regarding the payments from your housemates, again, don't worry. FoxesRevenge is right in that as long as it's clear why the money is being paid in, the council are extremely unlikely to consider this as additional income. Would your flatmates be willing to write you a quick letter with their contact details on to confirm that this is the reason they've been paying money into your account?

It is very unlikely that anything more serious will come from this, but please let the council know as soon as possible or you will create bigger problems for yourself further down the line.

LonesomeDove Tue 04-Mar-14 23:04:43

Thanks everybody.

I'm going to write a cover letter explaining. I don't want to involve housemates if possible because I don't want them knowing I claim housing benefit. I don't know them that well and I'm a private person.

Scott, I'm a bit confused at what you're saying about it being paid back at £15 approx. per week and if that's what my housing benefit is anyway I won't be able to get any?...My benefit is £71 weekly (I don't get the maximum for my borough, which is around £90 because I work) my rent is about £123 (roughly because I pay a fixed figure pcm, so it doesn't divide up weekly). I earn on average £111 per week. If they take away £15 per week I think I will have £44 per week left to live on after I pay rent, £20 which goes on travel to work. Leaving £24 a week to pay council tax, water, electric, heating, internet and food.

It's a sodding nightmare and I don't know what to do anymore - I'd have more money on the dole, which is where I'm going to be quite soon when I don't have any money to pay travel to work and they tell me to push off.

Brittapieandchips Tue 04-Mar-14 23:12:08

www.entitledto.co.uk

Caitlin17 Tue 04-Mar-14 23:15:58

As a landlord I let my flats on one lease to the tenants "jointly and severally". I will not accept payments being made by individual tenants for "their" share of the rent and it's written in to the lease it will be one payment only.

minsmum Tue 04-Mar-14 23:17:25

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment from your local authority. This is a payment made for a short period of time to help with a shortfall in your rent. They will ask for your income and out goings which would include things like travel. The local authority won't want you to be made homeless.

Caitlin17 Tue 04-Mar-14 23:20:42

VivienneMary it's the norm to have one lease with all tenants responsible for rent. That does mean a landlord can go after all or some or even just one tenant. I'd never agree to an arrangement where that wasn't the case.

vrtra Wed 05-Mar-14 02:47:34

tbh if the maximum hb payable to you is that much less than your rent I doubt it would make a difference to the amount you get, I'd say they probably just want to check your tenancy agreement if co-tenants are constantly in a state of flux! and check that the money coming in is going out again.

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