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Changes to Rate Rebate applications make it easier for private tenants to get help with paying rates

We recently took a successful case, leading to major changes in how LPS assess claims when landlords do not complete a certificate of occupation. 

6 September 2023
Faith Westwood — Practitioner Support Officer
  • Benefits
  • Rates
  • Landlord
  • Rent

Tenants and homeowners entitled to Universal Credit can apply for a Rate Rebate. Rate Rebate is a benefit that can help people to pay rates.

When private tenants apply for help, their landlord also needs to create a Rate Rebate account with Land & Property Services (LPS). LPS asks landlords to complete an online certificate of occupation. This is to confirm that the tenant is:

  • living in the property and
  • responsible for paying the rates

This can cause difficulty for tenants whose landlords do not create a Rate Rebate account and complete this certificate.

Housing Rights recently took a successful case, leading to major changes in how LPS assess claims when landlords do not complete a certificate of occupation. This change means that thousands of tenants facing arrears in rates payments could now successfully claim Rate Rebate, even if their landlord isn’t cooperating with LPS.

Facing eviction for rates arrears

Janine contacted our helpline for advice after her landlord gave her a notice to quit for rent arrears.

Janine explained that her arrears built up because she was not getting Rate Rebate to help her with the rates part of her rent. LPS closed her claim for Rate Rebate because her landlord did not give LPS information they needed about her tenancy.

Janine had asked LPS if instead they would accept a copy of her tenancy agreement and utility bills. These documents showed that she was living at the address and that she was responsible for paying rates. LPS refused and confirmed the information must come from her landlord. Despite meeting all the criteria for Rate Rebate, her claim was denied.

Unfair and rigid Rate Rebate policy

Land & Property Services (LPS) created the policy requiring the landlord to complete the certificate of occupation. However, it is not a rule that The Rate Relief Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 include.

Housing Rights’ legal team agreed to support Janine in challenging this policy. This process started with sending a pre-action protocol letter to Land & Property Services.

Our legal team argued the policy was unfair because it was:

  • not required under the law
  • rigid and inflexible
  • obstructing the aim of helping people on a low income to pay rates
  • in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

LPS considered these points. They agreed to accept the evidence from Janine that showed she was living in the property and was responsible for paying the rates. LPS reopened her claim and backdated it to the date she had first applied.

Widespread impact on private renters in Northern Ireland

Housing Rights was aware that this policy was impacting a significant number of tenants. At the time Janine contacted us, around 4,000 claims had been closed because landlords had not provided information to LPS.

Housing Rights asked LPS to change their policy to ensure that this issue would not impact other renters like Janine. LPS agreed to work on a new policy that would allow tenants to provide their own evidence about their tenancy if their landlords did not.

Housing Rights continued to hear from renters like Janine while LPS updated their policy.

Changes to the Rate Rebate assessment policy

Under the new LPS policy, landlords have 10 days to provide the information about their tenant. If they do not respond within 10 days, LPS will:

  • contact the tenant
  • give the tenant 10 days to provide the information — for example, their tenancy agreement or a letter from an estate agent
  • approve the claim if they are satisfied with the evidence provided

If neither the landlord or the tenant provides the information, LPS will close the Rate Rebate claim.

However, if the tenant contacts LPS within one month, they will reopen the claim and backdate it to the date the tenant first applied.

The policy also allows older closed claims to be reviewed. To start this process, the tenant must contact LPS. LPS will then contact their landlord and move on to the tenant if needed.

Get help with your Rate Rebate claim

If you, or someone you are supporting, is struggling to claim Rate Rebate or you have a claim that was cancelled in the past, contact our helpline for advice.

If you are a landlord supporting a tenant to claim Rate Rebate, contact Landlord Advice

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