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Your Rights; SUE BENT from Coventry Law Centre answers your legal questions.

Byline: Sue Bent

Q My brother has learning difficulties and recently rented a flat from a housing association. Can anything be done to make the whole process less confusing?

A From December 2006 the housing association will be under a new obligation to make reasonable adjustments, which can include changes to policies, practices and procedures and providing auxiliary aids and services.

In your brother's case this might include simplifying the rental process, taking more time to explain what is happening and producing an Easy Read lease. The housing association will also have a new duty to promote disability equality.

Q I am in employment and receive Tax Credits and I am entitled to some Housing Benefit on my rented home. I always inform the Housing Benefit department of any change in circumstances but sometimes it takes weeks, or even months, to alter the amount I receive. I was surprised to receive a letter asking me to repay an overpayment of pounds 700 because it was caused by their error.

What can I do?

A Overpayments are not recoverable when they are caused by official error. However, there is an extra regulation that the Housing Benefit claimant should not know that the overpayment is being made to them.

Therefore, they can still seek to recover an overpayment from you when it is almost completely caused by office error. This is particularly the case when they send you an assessment of how the Housing Benefit was calculated which does not include the increase in your wages or Tax Credits.

You have a right of appeal. Your case would be stronger if you had not been informed of how the Housing Benefit had been calculated or if the amounts changed regularly, making you unaware of the assessment.

You can phone Coventry Benefits Advice Line on 024 7683 2000 for help completing the appeal form. Coventry Law Centre would be pleased to represent you at a hearing if there are reasonable grounds of appeal.

Q I have been renting a room for 18 months in a house where my landlord also lives and pay rent weekly. My landlord now wishes a relative to live in the room and wants me to move out in two weeks. Nothing has been put in writing. Can I stay longer?

A As you live in your landlord's own home you are what is known as an excluded occupier and have very few tenancy rights. The landlord can evict you once reasonable notice has been given and expired. Notice can be given verbally. What constitutes reasonable notice will depend on a number of factors, such as your age and state of health, but it is likely that the 2 weeks notice given by your landlord will in most cases be considered reasonable.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 2, 2006
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