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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

New ruling on adaptations

Under the Housing Benefit rules, there are certain occasions when a claimant can claim Housing Benefit on ‘two homes’ for up to 4 weeks where they could not reasonably have avoided being liable for rent on both properties.

In order to get Housing Benefit under this rule, the delay in moving into the property must be seen as reasonable. One such circumstance can be when there is a delay because adaptations to the new tenancy are necessary to meet the disability needs of the claimant or a member of their household.

What is an adaptation?

Until recently, it has generally be held that ‘adaptations’ mean a change to the fabric or structure of the dwelling and that furnishing or redecorating the dwelling was not sufficient to come within the term ‘adapt’.

However, in a recent ruling by the English Court of Appeal in R v LB Lewisham and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions it was held that a case-by-case examination is required, taking into account the work being done to the property and looking at the claimant’s disability and their needs.

The English Court of Appeal stated that the question to be asked in each case is whether the claimant’s disability needs made it reasonably necessary for the work to be completed before the claimant moves in. If the works are held to be reasonably required before being able to move in, then the dwelling will be held as being ‘adapted’ to meet the claimant’s disability needs.

The judgment means that works no longer need to be to the structure or fabric of the dwelling in order to be considered as an adaptation. Examples of what can now be considered as adaptations include the fitting of handrails, redecoration and changing flooring; provided that there is a clear connection between the work being undertaken and the claimant’s disability needs and that the completion of the works is reasonably required before the claimant can move in.

Relevance to NI

As this is an English Court of Appeal judgment, it does not set a precedent in Northern Ireland. However, the outcome of the case may help when advocating on behalf of a client. For further information on how this ruling will be applied please see the recent circular from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Payment of Housing Benefit for up to 4 Weeks Before the Claimant Moved in to the Property

In certain circumstances, Regulation 7(8) of the Housing Benefit (NI) Regulations 2006 will allow Housing Benefit to be paid retrospectively to cover rental payments which the claimant had to make before they actually moved into the claim address. Such payments can cover periods of up to 4 weeks. 

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This article was written on 6 May 2014. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.