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Tax credit and Benefits confusion as a lodger(3 Posts)
Early last year I left my husband and the marital home and moved in with my parents, we are still married, but seperated and I claim CTC and Child benefit as an individual. My two children spend weekdays with me and weekends with their dad. This was never meant to be for the long term and I've been looking at renting but haven't come up with anything in my budget range.
I have a couple of friends who bought a house together but their relationship has since broken down, and one of them will be moving out, the one who remains would need a lodger to cover the deficit in rent and bills until the end of the mortgage term is up (a few years), and we have discussed the potential of me and the children moving in there. I would have 2 of the bedrooms but all other rooms in the property would be shared.
I am really struggling with the terminology of living as a couple though, especially as one of my friends is male, what am I going to need to do (if anything) to demonstrate we're not a couple? Am I completely over thinking it?
I think the best thing to do is contact the DWP, HMRC and Housing Benefit and ask for their advice on the situation. Plenty of people claiming benefits live in house-share arrangements and don't have their claims affected by the other occupants of the house, so it's not an unheard-of situation.
I work for a housing association and we have a couple of tenancies which are shared by cohabiting friends with separate benefit claims. Generally they've been told to keep records and hang on to receipts and bank statements which demonstrate that separate households are being maintained - so that you do your own food shopping, buy your own cleaning products - essentially aren't sharing finances and domestic costs with your live-in landlord. Plus you should have a written lodger's agreement. If you've already made all the relevent departments aware of the living situation, you remove some of the risk of your situation being construed or reported as fraudulent.
On a separate note, and to avoid yourself disruption, make sure you have a good, long discussion with the friend you'll be living with about the realities of what it will be like sharing a house with children. It sounds like your friend doesn't have their own and you don't want to move in and get settled only for them to announce that sharing a house with a family is far more chaotic and noisy than they were anticipating and they need you to move out.
Make sure that you sign a formal agreement. Pay your rent online or by cheque so you have easily accessible proof that you're paying to reside there - don't pay him cash. Don't set up joint bank accounts even if it would be easier for utility billing etc - it would just cause too much hassle. Both of you should do your own supermarket shops and keep receipts. Don't put him on your car insurance (or vice versa) even if it would be convenient. Don't put pictures that could be construed as "couply" or stepfamily-like on social media. Don't ask him to help out with the school run often, or to regularly drop the kids at ballet class or whatever - that's when he starts to look like your boyfriend even if he's just a mate.
It all sounds over-dramatic but it's best to be prepared for an investigation. Don't assume that because you're honest and definitely not cheating the system, that you won't be scrutinised. It's amazing what info the authorities can access. And don't underestimate the malice of the local busybody.
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