council just informed me tenant vacated

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    council just informed me tenant vacated

    Hi, I am after some advice from the legal members out there.

    I had a tenant who was on a 6 month AST and then rolled over onto a periodic tenancy. The tenant has had her rent paid each month by the local council who paid directly to me the landlord. She has been a tenant for approx 2 years.

    Each montb, rent was paid by the council up Feb19. Then 2 weeks ago I received a letter from the council informing me that he tenant housing allowance has stopped as the tenant has moved.

    I have asked for more clarification, and was yesterday told that the tenant housing benefit was cancelled as the tenant has told them she moved out of the house in sept 19.

    This is the first I have heard this!! I tried to contact the tenant by phone and letter back in feb when the council stopped payment, with no response. I have been to the property today, to see if the tenant has actually vacated.

    To my astonishment it does look like the tenant has vacated. No major funiture is in the property, however there are still some small belongings. rubbish, small furniture etc.

    Today, I have received notification from council, that they want all the tenants rent paid back to them from sept 18, i.e when the tenant has told them she left.

    I have also recieved a council tax bill from sept 18 onwards.

    Surely, I can not legaly liable for the council tax from sept 18, if I have only just found out the property is empty.

    I dont know when the council found out she left the property, but im assuming the tenant has only just told them she left in sept 18, otherwise they would have stopped her housing allowance payments sooner.

    Also, surely I am not liable to refund the rent back to the council from sept 18 onwards, if I have only just found out tenant has left.

    Am I not correct ststing the tenant is legally liable for both council tax and rent payment up until I recieve formal notification that the tenant no longer lives at the property?

    Any help or advice would be appreciated.


    #2
    What is a "legal member"?

    You cannot expect to get formal legal advice on an internet forum. Any advice should be treated as hints to be confirmed on denied by your own researches.

    However, I think there may be a valid case for the council tax, but not for the the housing benefit.. You will need to chase the tenant from when they moved out until when their notice expires or you agree a surrender.

    Comment


      #3
      Unfortunately, you are responsible for the council tax and will have to return the benefits you received.
      The tenant has really done you over here.

      Benefits - the situation is that the tenant is liable to pay the rent and is entitled to receive housing benefit - and they're two separate things.
      So the tenant owes you any rent that's due, if they moved out without telling you, the tenancy has continued and they owe you the rent.

      If the tenant isn't entitled to benefits, they can be stopped and any overpayment claimed back, and that includes retrospectively.
      In the normal course of things everyone would be happy with this, because obviously a benefit cheat should be forced to repay the benefits they weren't entitled to.
      Unfortunately, in this case, they paid the benefits to you and you will have to pay them back.
      You can try and sue the tenant for the rent they owe.

      You can try and argue about the council tax, as there is still a valid tenancy.
      But the tenant will say that there isn't and the council will probably believe them (they would be choosing between the tenant, who probably has no money - and you, a property owning landlord.

      I think you might have a bit of an issue with utility bills as well.

      Sorry that all of this is bad news.
      Suing the tenant for everything you lose might make you feel a little better and would give them a ccj to deal with.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks for reply. Im not after formal legal advice. Just pointers from some of the experinced members is good so I can then research.

        I cant het hold of the tenant. phone number appears dead, and council will not give me forwarding address or number.

        So you think I might be able to appeal the council tax, but you feel I will probably have to pay tenants housing benefit back to council.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Bobbybigears View Post
          I cant het hold of the tenant. phone number appears dead, and council will not give me forwarding address or number.
          Write to them at the last address you have for them, which is your property.
          How they get the mail is their problem.

          It will probably mean that the first they know about your claim is when it has ended, they've lost and it appears in their credit history.

          When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
          Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

          Comment


            #6
            This happened to me while back if tenant is being fraudulent, yes landlord is responsible to pay back benefits absolute joke. Luckily mine was only a month, but after various discussions with solicitor etc, luckily free, decided wasn't worth hassle and paid up. Now I Don't accept benefit tenants

            Comment


              #7
              Thanks for replies.

              So in a nutshell, advice is interpreted as I will probably not be able to dispute the rent overpayment by council and have to refund back unless I can prove tenant did not vacate in sept when stated. Im going to knock on neighbour's doors over weekend to try and establish if tenant lived there recently and see if debt is on utility meters or speak with utility providers to see if any consumption used since sept.

              Again, advice is interpreted as I might be able to dispute the council tax bill as the Tenancy should still classed as valid until formal notice given (i.e council informing me tenant left).


              Comment


                #8
                If the tenant is on a statutory periodic tenancy rather than a contractual one, then you will probably have to repay the Council Tax

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Bobbybigears View Post
                  So in a nutshell, advice is interpreted as I will probably not be able to dispute the rent overpayment by council and have to refund back unless I can prove tenant did not vacate in sept when stated. Im going to knock on neighbour's doors over weekend to try and establish if tenant lived there recently and see if debt is on utility meters or speak with utility providers to see if any consumption used since sept.
                  No, that's certainly not my advice.
                  The local authority "advised" by the DWP determine who is entitled to receive housing benefit.
                  If they have decided that your tenant wasn't, there is nothing at all you can do about it.
                  The only person who can appeal that decision is your ex tenant - you can't and can do nothing to change the situation, other than try and recover the lost money from the tenant.
                  Any efforts you expend trying to prove residence are a waste of time relating to the benefits.

                  Again, advice is interpreted as I might be able to dispute the council tax bill as the Tenancy should still classed as valid until formal notice given (i.e council informing me tenant left).
                  Yes, you can try this, but you will probably not succeed.
                  You should succeed, because the tenancy is ongoing until it is ended, and it hasn't been.
                  But if the tenant has said that the tenancy has ended, you are simply fighting a losing battle.
                  But this one is probably worth the effort of fighting, even though I would expect you to lose.
                  When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                  Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If tenant was on a statutory periodic tenancy, then LL became responsible to pay Council fr Council Tax from the day T vacated, but T is (probably, depending on wording of agreement) still responsible for paying the council tax, and so LL can pursue T for any council tax he has had to pay up to the time the tenancy is properly ended.

                    If the contract was for the tenancy to become periodic after the initial 6 months, then the T is responsible to pay the Council until the tenancy is ended.

                    I have a recollection, but no reference, that LL only have to pay back overpaid Housing Benefit if they knew that the tenant was no longer entitled to it.

                    regarding utilities: they are not LL responsibility until the tenancy has ended; until that time they remain the tenant's responsibility. DO NOT put them in your name until you have lawful possession of the property.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks agai for pointers.

                      MdeB - as it appears the tenant has vacated the property, and I have no communication and no forwarding address, whats the process to obtain lawful possession of the property? is there a process i need to follow

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Its always worth putting in a claim via the small claims court, as whilst your ex tenant may be on benefits now, years down the line their circumstances may change, they could get a good job, own a car etc etc, and as such you can try and recover your losses then, but chasing a benefit tenant when on benefits will be a waste of time - simply wait and search, I have done this and 5+ years later recovering losses with a big smile on my face.

                        Put some rubber gloves on and check every bit of rubbish, especially Pizza boxes as these usually have the occupiers name on them, I had a similiar situation where a tenant claimed that they left 6 weeks before they actually did, but the Judge wasn't happy with them when I proved Pizza being delivered up until the time they left.

                        Rubbish bag sifting will generally give you all you need, it will also give you proof to the council so they (might) look upon things differently.

                        Best of luck

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Gandolf View Post
                          Now I Don't accept benefit tenants
                          Ditto but in my case i never have, i listened and learnt from other landlords prior to my first purchases, couple that with my job which puts me in direct contact with people who live on benefits and it was a no no from day one.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            If you weren't aware your tenant left, send a letter of appeal against the recovery from you to the Benefits Office stating the facts. If you have any evidence, send that to them as well.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              once again thanks for pointers. I just sent a appeal letter to council, so I will wait and see what they. They normally take at least 2 -3 weeks to respond so I will post an update once I hear back from them.

                              I will try the rubber gloves trick and look through the left over rubbish to see if this gives me any insight to when they actually left.

                              Comment

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