Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Housing Costs: Joint Tenants
What if a joint tenant leaves? - 'Untidy tenancies'
When a joint tenant leaves, the DWP frequently refuse to increase the Housing Cost Element in the remaining claimant's UC award to reflect the fact that they are now having to pay all the rent.

Sometimes the DWP refer to these situations as "untidy tenancies", and say that they will only increase the Housing Cost Element once the landlord has formally terminated the other joint tenant's tenancy and given the remaining tenant a sole tenancy.

But this is not a simple process under housing law, and it can be a long process especially if the tenant who left is unobtainable.

A close inspection of the Regulations means that there are two possible arguments for why - the DWP can cover the full 100% of the rent for the joint tenant left in the property - see below.

Therefore the DWP should be asked to increase the Housing Cost Element from the start of the Monthly Assessment Period when the other joint tenant left.

Use Standard letter UC HCE 3 to request that the Housing Cost Element is based on 100% liability.

Use Standard letter UC HCE 3a to request a mandatory reconsideration where the DWP have refused to increase the Housing Cost Element.
Note - if getting UC under the Full / Digital service the claimant should make this request through their online UC account.

The arguments

The first argument is: that the 'joint renter' Regulation does not apply where the claimant, although a 'joint renter' - has no other 'joint renter' living with them, so where there is a joint tenancy between two people but one of them is no longer living in the property that leaves 100% of the rent to be allocated to the tenant who is in occupation.

Paragraph 35 of Schedule 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 - the 'joint renter' Regulation states it only applies where ‘in respect of the accommodation occupied by the renter, one or more persons other than the renter is liable to make relevant payments which are of the same description as those for which the renter is liable and which are to be taken into account under paragraph 6.

Paragraph 6 of Schedule 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 states that no account is to be taken of any relevant payment (ie rent / service charge) where a renter does not meet each of the three conditions for a Housing Cost Element ie the payment, liability, and occupation conditions. As the other renter (joint tenant) is not meeting the occupation condition there are no other persons liable to make relevant payments and therefore Regulation 35 does not apply.

And where paragraph 35 does not apply, the amount of the Housing Costs Element to be included in the UC award falls under Paragraph 34 of Schedule 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.
And as long as the claimant meets the payment, liability and occupation conditions for 100% of the rent the Housing Cost Element included in their Universal Credit award should be based on this amount. Note under paragraph 34 a Bedroom Tax reduction will be made if appropriate.

The second argument is: that if the DWP do feel that the 'joint renter' rules do apply, they can use their discretion to apportion the rent differently to the split suggested by the 'joint renter' formula if it would be reasonable to do so and so can base the Housing Cost Element on 100% rental liability. Paragraph 35(5) of Schedule 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013
And where the joint tenant is - as is usually the case, and written in their Tenancy Agreement - "jointly and severally liable" for the whole of the rent, there is no reason why they should not do so if they are the only joint tenant living in the property.
Note under Paragraph 35 no Bedroom Tax reduction can be made even if the claimant is under-occupying the property.

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