Definition of Housing Benefit ‘Claim’


 A recent Court of Appeal case has considered whether a claim for housing benefit under the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 can still be valid if it has not been made in the normal way.
The claim was made on a generic statement form that has no particular significance to housing benefit claims, but an official had put at the heading of the document “HB and income support”. A further form was sent two weeks later in the proper format.
The timing was crucial as the Deputy Commissioner’s previous decision, which was the subject of the appeal, had found that both the statement and the subsequent correctly filed form were out of time.
In order to decide this matter the court was required to consider the case law relating to claims and whether the statement the claimant provided could constitute a valid claim. A mere email request for information as to entitlement to benefits was not sufficient nor was a letter that made no reference at all to sickness benefit and was purportedly a question about National Insurance.
The judge found that any claim must make it clear that a claim is being made, although under Regulation 72 there was no requirement for every benefit to be specifically named within the claim. If this were necessary, a claimant would be prejudiced by virtue of the fact that they did not know the exact name of the types of benefit to which they were entitled.
The statement provided was found to be a defective claim and the defect was 'cured' by the subsequent claim: the appeal was therefore allowed.

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