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Victory in fight against LHA overpayment recovery

This is one of those days that is promising to be a roller-coaster ride. The bad news is that a tenant who was to sign up to take occupancy of a commercial property, having promised to sign up today and pay their deposit, suddenly announces that they’ve changed their minds. And we are talking two months into negotiations!!

Anyway, not quite recovering from that, I pick up a message on my answerphone from a nice lady from the Housing Benefit office of a Local Authority that I deal with. She tells me that they are no longer going to be pursuing me to try to recover alleged overpayment of housing benefit, but will now seek to recover it from my ex-tenant. Music to my ears, as we are talking several hundreds of pounds here.

The saga with my ex-tenant is that she left the property last year without the proper notice, leaving some belongings behind, not handing over keys and not responding to attempts to contact her. Meanwhile, her housing benefit was being paid to me directly due to her having previously accrued more than 8 weeks of rent arrears. Anyway, I went through the recommended abandonment process, after which I recovered the property, notified the local authority that she was no longer in residence, re-let and thought that was that.

Then the saga began, and the LA decided to try to recover what they alleged was overpayment of housing benefit. I decided to deal with the matter in writing, as I already had bad experiences of “telephone discussions” on such important matters. So began a series of correspondence between me and the LA, with me refusing to accept liability for the alleged LHA overpayment, and they insisting and threatening the usual stuff-pay or else. They’d go quiet for yonks, not reply to me, then write claiming not to have heard from me. I’d write back, enclosing copies of previous letters, explain again etc.etc. I appealed in January 2010, and waited and waited. Mid February, a letter arrives acknowledging receipt of the appeal (talk about snail mail). More waiting, then in April, the LA send a reminder that the overpayment invoice was outstanding. There I was thinking that the matter was proceeding through the appeals process….  Anyway, I write back asking them about progress on the appeal (which they seem to have conveniently forgotten about) and enclosed a copy of the appeal paperwork, and correspondence to them. They write back a week later, yet again ignoring my last letter, and giving me 7 days to pay or else.

As you can imagine, I was livid by now, and immediately fired off a firm but polite letter, again denying any liability, informing them that unless and until the appeal was determined, any attempt by them to recover anything from me was illegal (according to their guidelines/ regulations), that I would consider such attempts as harassment, and that I would fight it vigorously and legally if I had to. I also enclosed, yet again, copies of the appeal form, correspondence with ex-tenant, proof that I had informed them as soon as I was sure she’d left, and I posted it by special delivery to the two named people on their last letter, and waited.

The telephone message I mentioned at the start, was their response, to say that they will now be pursuing the ex-tenant for recovery. My point all along was that the ex-tenant was responsible for any overpayment as it was incumbent on her to inform them of any changes in her circumstances. I informed them of the change as soon as I was sure I had the property back, and to have to go through all that hassle was annoying to say the least.

Victory at last, for fairness and common sense, not to mention doggedness. I will not be brow beaten by a flawed and unfair “system” put in place by a goofment that didn’t seem to understand anything about fairness or small businesses.

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    Posted in Housing Regulations, LHA, Tenant Behaviour.

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    2 Responses

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    1. camngnp223 says

      Another lovely post that provides plenty of insight into the trials of being a landlord! I been an avid reader of your blog for a few weeks. One of the elements that attracted me to it was your following statement:
      “This blog will reflect on my journey from accidental landlord to experienced portfolio landlord …”
      I’d really love to hear more about how you got started. If you ever have the time, I’d then like to hear about each of the steps you took in building your portfolio.
      Huge thanks,
      Cam

    Continuing the Discussion

    1. Tweets that mention Victory in fight against LHA overpayment recovery | Grumpy Old Landlord -- Topsy.com linked to this post on May 14, 2010

      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Grumpy Landlord. Grumpy Landlord said: RT @GrumpyLandlord Victory in fight against LHA over.. http://bit.ly/bYHNGv #housing #benefit #landlord #LHA #overpayment [...]



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