Thursday, 29 January 2009

Housing Benefit Decision Notices part 4 (I think)

You'll remember that I've been banging on about Housing Benefit decision notices being illegally inadequate for a while.

As a recap, the reply I got from the Housing Benefit service said;

"I have taken this matter up with [manager] this morning and been advised that some recent amendments to decision notice letters led to the back page information being left off. The back page contained all the statutory details and appeal information..."

Note that word, 'recent'. What would you take that to mean, last two to three months perhaps?

I visited a friend yesterday who has been on benefits for a while longer than me and I took the opportunity to have a look through her collection of HB decision notices. Two notifications dated 22 Feb 2008 and 22 March 2008 were of interest as between these dates the format changed significantly as did the ref numbers of the documents at the bottom. The earlier of the two documents did include a brief mention of the right to appeal and the timel imit. However the later one no longer has this and the space is now taken up by the income details, which the earlier one lacked. Neither had anything on the back, nor was there any supplementary information sheet included.

So it seems obvious that the 'recent amendment' occurred sometime between 22 Feb and 22 March 2008. Personally, in this context I think thats stretching the meaning of the word 'recent'.

In the reply from Housing Benefits I was told that the information would be reinstated "this month" i.e. December 08, the email being dated 8 December. However, I received further statements in the 3rd week of December and nothing had changed. And there was no mythical information sheet either.

So, Nottingham City Council's Housing Benefit Service, a 4 star (highest) rated service according to the Audit Commission (more on this later) was happy to provide illegal decision notices to claimants for nearly 9 months. To me, this shows a worrying arrogance and contempt for the law. Mind you, arrogance and contempt for the law is something we've come to expect from Nottingham City Council *cough* housing allocations *cough*.

I'd be very grateful to hear from anybody who has received a decision notice during January, the more recent the better, letting me know whether the statutory information has now been included. Hit the comments or send me an email, whatever you prefer.


Robin of BS said...

I have another angle on this. I have an ex-council house in Nottingham that I rent out. It's immaculate, fully modernised and fully furnished with a garage.

I rent it to a lovely Polish couple and their children for £400 a month. To me that's a fair rent.

They applied for housing benefit.

Then something peculiar happened.

1. The council wrote to me and told me that they valued that I should be renting the house out for £450 a month!

2. They said they would be sending the tenants housing benefit cheque to me - the landlord each month!

I called them...because their letter was more muddled than a maze in its reasoning and construction.

I found out that they were more trusting of landlord (like me) who they had never met than those claming benefits and that is why they were sending me the cheque so that I could knock it off the rent, Their fear was that the tenants might move into another house with friends and continue to claim. Which is madness? My tenants a lovely couple - the most honest people I could hope to meet.

That’s pretty nasty. Some landlord would cheat their tenant and many would immediately put the rent up - using the letter from the council as the excuse.

Nottingham City Council should be ashamed!

Andy said...

Off the top of my head I'm not sure if you can appeal against a decision to pay benefit to a landlord rather than the tenant.

However, my point is that, even if you can you won't find out from one of NCC's standard benefits decision notices because they illegally leave this information out.