15 Naam Place
Lincoln LN1 3LA
Mr. Gareth Evans
Head of Revenue and Customer Services
PO Box 26
King’s Lynn &West Norfolk Borough Council
Norfolk PE30 1PX
8th January 2008
Dear Mr. Evans,
I am the Landlord, the property address is: 316 Vicarage House, Hillington Square, King's Lynn PE30 5JF. Claimants Mr. Wesley Moule, Mrs. Christine Moule Ref 00810787 &Ms. Donna Scoles. Ref 20006877.
I wish to appeal against your decision to reclaim 11 weeks over payment of rent, which has resulted in Mr. Moule’s rent entitlement being assessed as if he were responsible for the total rent.
On the face of it this appears a simple error in calculating the rent entitlement but it's not. What this signifies is a snapshot of how badly the Housing Benefit entitlement has been assessed for this tenancy since the pre-rent determination in August 2005.
The Errors that have occurred Include:
1. A failure to check the original form submitted by my tenant and signed by me. The caseworker who checked the form failed to get clarification as to why a section (clause) had been left blank even though the section immediately above it clearly indicated that there was an omission.
2.Despite being aware of the age and income of Ms. Donna Scoles the caseworker classed Ms Scoles as a dependant of Mr. Moule and his partner (now wife). Ms. Donna Scoles’ income clearly indicated that she a child then aged one year.
3. The status of Ms Donna Scoles only came to light after the rent assessment, for Mr. Moule and his then partner (now wife) had been completed. The process took three months. I phoned the Housing Benefit Office and was told that Ms. Donna Scoles had completed the ‘Wrong Form’ and that she should have completed a separate one. I was further told that I should have given each tenant a separate tenancy agreement instead of them all being equal joint tenants.
4. I questioned the requirement to have individual tenancy agreements and decided to cross check this matter with Southend Housing Benefit Office with whom I also have dealings. The Southend Office told me that what had been asked was not a legal requirement and I then phoned the King's Lynn Housing Benefit Office and told them. I also told Ms. Donna Scoles she needed to complete a separate form and in due course she was granted Housing Benefit but this was not to be backdated to the beginning of the tenancy 16th September 2005.
5. On Ms. Donna Scoles behalf I phoned the King's Lynn Housing Benefit Office and argued that she had been a tenant since 16th September 2005 and that if 'The wrong form' had been filled in it was a genuine error and should have been picked up a the pre-tenancy rent determination stage. I also said I had Ms. Scoles written permission to represent her at any appeal and would do so either via a written response or in person. The Housing Benefit was then backed dated without any recourse to appeal.
In early July 2006 Ms Scoles was delivered of another child. In September 2006 I issued the tenants with a new lease for twelve months and increased the rent by 3%. The subsequent rent review took a further three months and resulted in he wrong assessment being made. Again, as in 2005, your staff failed to include Ms Donna Scoles in the rent assessment. At no stage have the tenants or myself withheld information the errors that have occurred have been entirely within the Housing Benefit Office and demonstrate a failure on the part of the staff to implement the Housing benefit entitlement fairly and in accordance with the regulations, which from my personal experience they do not appear to understand.
Impact Of Errors On the Fair Rent Assessment.
I originally asked for a rent of £495 when the pre-tenancy rent determination took place. The rent was set by the Norwich Rent Service at £425. I accepted that this as the local reference rent and reduced the rent accordingly. I was surprised that this was lower than I’d expected and phoned the Rent Service in Norwich who told me they could not discuss the case with me as the information was Data Protected. I have since had the opportunity to check the validity of this assertion and it is wrong. I was the Landlord enquiring about the rent assessment I’d signed the pre-tenancy rent determination form. All I needed to know at that stage was that the tenants had been assessed as only needing a two-bedroom property and so the reference rent was set at that level and not for a three bedroom flat, which they actually had the tenancy of. If I’d been told this I’d have known immediately that a serious error had occurred. This was the second missed opportunity to correct the rent assessment. The first opportunity was when the caseworker checked the pre-tenancy rent determination form and did not seek clarification as to why a section was left blank.
Last Friday I was phoned by the Housing Benefit office in King’s Lynn in an attempt to assure me that the rent assessment was now correct. The original form was read to me. Apparently Mr. Wesley Moule, who completed most of the form, stated that he would be sharing the flat with his partner, sister-in-law and niece. The next section then asked him to name them and in error he omitted this. The form was complex and several pages long. I am sure people making mistakes on Housing Benefit forms must be very common and he’d given enough information for the person checking the form to at least enquire if the omission of individual names was intentional or a genuine oversight. When Ms. Scoles was finally assessed as being a tenant in late 2005, the statement by the Housing Benefit Office, that she completed the wrong form was itself wrong she had not. Regrettably another opportunity to recognise that flawed information had been sent to the Rent Service for Fair Rent assessment was missed. Fair Rent assessments lasts 12 months and should have been valid from September 2005 to September 2006 but on Friday morning I was informed that the ‘New Fair Rent’ would run from December 2006 to December 2007. No explanation was given as to what had happened for the missing four months from September to December 2006.
Anyone reading this email, which I shall also send as a letter, must acknowledge that in this case the standard of service and the implementation of Housing Benefit entitlement have fallen well below acceptable standards. I want a copy of your Quality Assurance and Customer Satisfaction Evaluation Procedures along with your Formal Complaints handbook.
I have not been over paid
Due to the many administrative errors I’ve listed my flat should have been Fair Rented at the three-bedroom rent, which is what the tenants were entitled to for the size of their household. I want a full investigation into the way this case has been handled and further I want the correct rent assessment of £495 to be back dated to September 2005 with a 3% increase to take effect from September 2006.
This letter constitutes a Formal Complaint :
I’ve just read through this email now converted in to letter format and if I were you Mr. Evans I’d be deeply ashamed to be head of this Housing Benefit Office that has consistently fallen well short of the most basic standard of service. I suspect that quite early on, probably about the time that Ms Scoles was asked to fill in an application form (late 2005), someone did realize a grave error had been made
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