The Court of Appeal has ruled that local authorities should now use a wider interpretation of the term ‘adapt the dwelling’ when deciding housing benefit allocations for disabled people.
Before this new ruling the word ‘adapt’ in housing benefit cases related solely to changes to the fabric or structure of the property. However, following a recent case the Court of Appeal has decided that the term could now also include works such as redecoration or carpeting, which previously fell outside the scope of the definition.
The court has decided that a case-by-case examination was required, and the work being done to the property and setting it against the claimant’s disablement and the needs arising from it, reports 24dash.
The question needs be asked on whether the claimant’s disablement needs made it reasonably necessary for that work to be completed before the claimant moved in and if the delay in moving in was reasonable and the works were reasonably required before the claimant and their family could move in; then the dwelling was being adapted to meet a disablement need.
The decision by the Court of Appeal means that local authorities should no longer use the narrower interpretation and must look at each case on a case-by-case basis at the disablement needs of the claimant.
Examples on how the new ruling my affect housing benefit claims have been provided by the DWP and 24dash highlight three examples:
Mr A has significant difficulties with balance and coordination. He currently lives on an upper floor in a block with no lift access, and is moved by his housing association to a ground floor flat. This flat currently has polished wooden floors, which would be a health hazard to Mr A due to his condition. His move to the new address is delayed for a week to allow the polished floors to be covered by carpets. He claims a dual payment of HB for his new property for the week before he moves in. The LA decides that Mr A is eligible for HB on two homes as the delay in moving is reasonable, there is a clear connection between the adaptations being made and Mr A’s disablement needs, and the works are reasonably required before he is able to move in.
Miss B, who is wheelchair bound, is moving from her present owner-occupied house to a single-floor dwelling. It has been left in poor condition by the previous tenant and so must be fully redecorated before Miss B is able to move in. She makes a claim to the LA for HB to be awarded for the first two weeks of her tenancy before she takes up occupation. The LA refuses her request as, although the delay in moving is reasonable, there is no connection between her disability and the works which are being carried out.
Miss C suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and has anxiety problems. She has been allocated a property by her LA, which is being thoroughly repainted and having its carpets replaced with tiling so that it is easier for Miss C to keep clean. Miss C requests HB for the first two weeks of her tenancy whilst she is waiting for the redecorations to be completed. The LA allows her claim as there is a direct connection between the work being carried out and her disability. The Upper Tribunal has ruled that ‘disablement’ includes mental as well as physical conditions and it is necessary for the works to be carried out before she moves in to prevent Miss C from suffering distress.
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