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Maybe refused housing benefit due to supposed marital asset/albatross

(4 Posts)
Thecontinualgardener Tue 17-May-16 23:06:31

Hi all, I wonder if anybody has some pearls of wisdom to help me help my poor old mum out.

The back story is as follows - mum and dad married about 50 years ago. They bought a house 45 years ago. Dads name only on the deeds - I think this was normal practice then as dad was the earner and mum was SAHM. Dad left mum 30 years ago and she stayed in the family home with us kids. He gave her a tiny amount of money each week and basically we lived in squalor until we left home. My mum has continued to live in this house which Is in an extremely poor state of repair and I think now uninhabitable. Mum now gets state pension which is topped up with pension credit (because she didn't pay national insurance?) so is unable and never has been in a position to make any repairs. Dad, despite his promises over the years, has done nothing to upgrade the house.

Mum is becoming increasingly frail now and after much persuasion over several years she has finally agreed to move to sheltered housing. We duly arranged this and she has now been offered a little house in an ideal location for her. she's finally, for the first time in 30 years, feeling pretty positive about her future. we applied for housing benefit and were under the impression this would be straight forward as she has no capital. Today I was told that this may not be so straight forward as despite not having her name on the deeds of her house, it would still be considered a marital asset. Mum now has decided she wants to stay where she is as she doesn't want to challenge my dad. They have a very odd relationship. You could say she's been doing the 'pick me' dance since he left. He is a very domineering and forceful character. She continually tries to please him and won't ever stand up to him. When we have tried to fight her corner she has shot us down, basically leaving us helpless. He says he won't agree to sell the house (and continues to promise to make repairs). Equally, she isn't going to challenge him for what is rightfully hers in way of marital assets. That said, I'm doubtful there will be any marital assets given the very poor state of repair (the house is semi detached and the neighbours house is now being affected by dampness etc and there have been mutterings about legal action from them). I genuinely think they would struggle to give the house away far less making any profit on it.

We haven't actually had a refusal from council regarding housing benefit so far, but I anticipate problems. They say they will write in due course :-/

Does anybody have any similar experience of housing benefit being refused due to a supposed marital asset? Im just wondering what our options will be if they refuse. I have no experience of benefits system at all so feeling a bit lost. We live in Scotland which I know may make a difference re law etc.

Collaborate Wed 18-May-16 08:02:40

I would be surprised if they refuse her claim based upon a right she has to: 1. divorce him and 2. apply for a financial remedy within that divorce.

She would I'm sure get at least the house, and a fair share of the other assets (the fact she's done nothing for 30 years may count against her getting half of what he has now), but no one can force her to take any of those steps, and it would be wrong of those assessing her HB claim to try and get her to do that.

ComtesseDeSpair Wed 18-May-16 11:56:40

It can be very difficult for claims officers to distinguish between people who have genuinely complicated circumstances, and people who have maintained a particular set-up in order to maximise their entitlement to benefits. It's likely that it's investigation into your mum's particular scenario which is holding up the application, as well as checking with the council legal team.

However, the mere fact of ownership or right to benefit from a property doesn’t necessarily mean it has a value that results in non-entitlement to benefit, and there is also some case law (albeit selective) which suggests that the value of somebody's theoretical right to benefit from an asset which cannot be realised is nil, or at least far less than it might appear to be on paper.

Have a look at these benefit rulings: the first clarifies that right to take proceedings to secure a property adjustment order is not a capital asset, and the second looks at valuation of a share in a jointly held property.

It's also worth knowing that, regardless of whether an asset or capital is owned or not, councils can make a 3, 6 or 12 month (or longer) disregard on it affecting any benefits applied for, which would at least buy you some time to try and put together a case for ongoing receipt of HB or encourage your mum to take some sort of legal action.

Thecontinualgardener Wed 18-May-16 21:36:50

Thank you for the replies. Feeling a bit more positive today. comtesse, re your last paragraph, the sheltered house mum is thinking about is with a housing association. Do you think they would have a similar policy to the council on the 3, 6 or 12 month disregard period? This would indeed buy us time. I think the fact she has no asset as dad refuses point blank to sell would be good route to pursue. Hopefully won't come to that (though I'm told our council are notorious). Will keep you posted. Thanks again. :-)

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