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Alison Meacher succeeds in Housing Benefit “exempt accommodation” case

The Upper Tribunal recently published a decision (DW v Oxford City Council [2012] UKUT 52 (AAC)) in which Alison Meacher, representing the local authority, successfully resisted a challenge to the decision that the Appellant was not living in “exempt accommodation” for the purpose of the regulation 10 of the Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations 1995.

In 2004 the local authority made a decision that the Appellant was not living in exempt accommodation and her rent should be referred to a rent officer for assessment (who assessed the rent as £70). This decision was upheld by the Tribunal in 2005. In 2007 the landlord and County Council entered into a new contract, the principle purpose of which was to place obligations upon the landlord that would require it to provide sufficient support to its tenants to bring it within the definition of exempt accommodation for housing benefit purposes.  The consideration for this obligation was just under £150,000, but the additional rent the landlord would be able to claim if the accommodation was treated as exempt accommodation would be far greater than this.

The appeal was refused by the First Tier Tribunal.  The Appellant appealed to the Upper Tribunal (AAC). The appeal was heard by Judge Turnbull. The Judge concluded that the First Tier Tribunal had erred in law in discounting arrangements made for adaptations needed as a result of a tenant’s disability, attempts made to resolve relationships between members of the household and neighbours and the advice and assistance given to tenants with move-on accommodation because a social landlord would consider these services to be ordinary housing management.

The Judge went on to re-make the decision rather than remit the matter to the First Tier Tribunal for a new determination that the accommodation was not exempt as the support provided by the Appellant’s landlord was minimal.  In so doing the Judge concluded that there was little evidence as to the nature and extent of the disability the Appellant or other tenants suffered from or the level of support provided by other agencies. The Judge also took into account the fact that the Appellant had a 24 hour care package provided to her by the County Council.

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