Monday, 16 July 2012

Housing Co-ops and Housing Benefits

I applied for housing benefit upon taking up residence in your friendly neighbourhood Swansea housing co-op. The process was a little bit long and convoluted, so I thought I'd tell you about it in the hope that it might save you some time.

I assumed that it was alright for the council to know who else was living here, and so I happily put the names of other residents on my form. Some weeks later, I emailed the housing benefit department to ask why my application was taking so long, since it was just logging a change of address. I had a reply by email saying they'd sent me a letter 16 days earlier (still not received) and this:
The tenancy agreement you supplied appears to have not been signed by your landlord.  It appears to be signed by another tenant at the property.  Please provide proof of your rent liability by providing your original Tenancy Agreement which has been signed by your actual landlord or a signed letter from your landlord to confirm [rent details].
Amusingly snarky, with casual fraud accusational overtones. I emailed back the same day to explain that we were a housing co-op (as outlined on the change of address form), and as such, members are tenants and tenants are members. Members are authorised to sign such documents when agreed at a general meeting, which is what happened. So yes, a fellow tenant did sign my tenancy agreement, and that's all totally legal and alright.

They replied again, and asked the following questions:

  1. Who owns [the house]?
  2. Who do you pay your rent to?
  3. Do you share ownership of the above address with your fellow co-operative members?
  4. Please confirm in writing if you hold more than a nominal equity share in the property.
I answered by email, and a week later when I asked I was told that my housing benefit claim had been set up and was all okay. (Still no letter, mind.)

The whole process took over a month, partly because their first letter to me got lost in the post.

Someone else in the co-op also had to switch housing benefit to our new house, and had no problems, probably due to leaving off the names of other tenants when filling in the form since that information is totally irrelevant.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because it might help you if you have to do the same thing. First of all, don't bother telling them the names of the other tenants, since it's not really relevant anyway. Second, perhaps answering those four questions on the application/change of address form might speed things up a little bit.

So there we are. Extelligence. Love it.

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