Crawley Borough Council tenants affected by the overpayment of their rent will start to find out if they are to receive a refund in the next few days.
Letters are being sent out this week to tenants who pay their rent, or who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, with details of the amount of any refund tenants are due and how they can request it.
They will also include how much, if anything, has been returned to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as well as confirmation of tenants’ new rent levels and any Housing Benefit entitlement.
The amount of refund a tenant will receive will vary greatly. Refunds will first be placed on rent accounts and will first address any arrears on tenants’ rent accounts.
Tenants who have had periods when they have been in receipt of Housing Benefit are unlikely to receive any refund for these periods. This is because the overpayments will have been made by the Department for Work and Pensions through the levels of Housing Benefits paid, and not by the tenant.
Those tenants in receipt of Universal Credit and affected by this issue will also be written to this week. This letter will confirm their new rent level and explain that the council is working with the DWP to update tenants’ Universal Credit accounts.
This means that tenants will not need to take any action or contact Universal Credit with regards to the change of rent. Once this has been completed the council will write again to those tenants setting out the next steps.
Due to the number of tenants affected, it may take some time for council officers to process refund requests. However, designated staff are specifically working on processing refunds and will undertake this work as quickly as possible. Refunds will be made in date order of receipt.
Crawley Borough Council sincerely and unreservedly apologises for this error. All affected rents are being adjusted back to the start date of the tenancy. The overpayment of rent will be calculated and refunds will be made.
The council is also urging tenants to beware of scammers because it’s possible they could target tenants about refunds.
For more information and answers to frequently asked questions visit crawley.gov.uk/rentcorrections
Since 2002 the government has issued guidance to try and prevent variations in rent across the country. It does this through what is called a ‘target rent’. When properties are re-let the council amends the rent on properties to this target rent in order to comply.
In April 2014 the council decided to remove the ‘rent-free’ weeks and start charging rent over a 52-week year as opposed to 48 weeks of the year. The total amount payable over the year would have been exactly the same, but the weekly amount would have differed as did the number of payments each year.
Unfortunately, new tenancies that commenced after April 2014 did not have the 48 to 52-week change applied to the ‘target rent’ due to an administrative error. This is how the overcharge on weekly rents occurred.
The refund applies to council tenants living in existing buildings (not new builds), who have become tenants since April 2014. Existing tenancies that started before April 2014 have not been affected.
Tenancies that have started since 2014 which are not affected include tenancies in ‘new build’ properties, for example homes in Forge Wood, Bridgefield House, Lonsdale Court and John Brackpool Court.