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Relevant date for Support for Mortgage Interest

A recent case before the Upper Tribunal in England looked at the effective date for the backdating of Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). SMI is a government scheme which provides assistance to homeowners facing problems meeting some of their housing costs.

In order to be able to apply for SMI, a homeowner must be in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Income Support (IS), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Guaranteed Pension Credit (PC). These are also known as qualifying benefits. However, even if they are eligible for help, there is a 13 week waiting period from entitlement to a qualifying benefit before they can be assessed for SMI. When the 13 weeks come to an end the claimant must request a claim form (MI12).

Facts of the case

In SK v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (JSA) [2013] UKHT 138 (AAC), the UK Upper Tribunal held that a claimant was entitled to have their SMI backdated to the date that the MII2 was sent to him by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), rather than to the date that the MI12 was signed and returned by the claimant.

In this case, the claimant was awarded JSA from September 2009. The MI12 was issued to the claimant in November 2009 but he did not send it to his mortgage company until March 2010. SMI was awarded from March 2010 but not backdated due to the delay in returning the form. The decision maker decided that the claimant had a duty to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances i.e. that the 13 week waiting period had expired. However, the claimant argued that this should not be required as the DWP were already aware that SMI would apply from December 2009, on expiry of the 13 week period, as the MI12 Form had already been sent to him.

The Upper Tribunal said that the issue was whether the effective date of the change in circumstances was the date that the claimant returned the MI12 form or the date when his SMI became payable, namely, when the 13 week expiry period had expired.

In considering its decision the Judge noted that the case raised difficult issues around the correct application of the Social Security and Child Support (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 1999, (English regulations). He considered specifically Regulation 7 which states that where an earlier decision is replaced, (a supersession), on the ground that there has been a change in circumstances the supersession shall take effect from the first day of the benefit week in which that change of circumstances is expected to occur.

Relevance to Northern Ireland

As this is a decision of an Upper Tribunal it is not binding in Northern Ireland, but in the absence of any local decisions on the same point, it will be taken in to account.

A full report on the case can be found here.

Tagged In

Case law, Affordability, Legal

This article was written on 19 September 2013. 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.