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HI thanks for your question. My name isXXXXX can help with this.
Is it an administrative error on the landlord's part by taking too little previously?
I have been the sole tenant since my wife died in 2006. A direct debit was set up with the Council and they have taken what appears to be a week's amount of rent per month ever since. I noticved this when a letter was sent advising workings of housing benefit.
Okay. Normally, you would be liable for the difference, as the true amount would have been stated in the tenancy agreement, which you have taken on now alone. The fact they've taken less doesn't change the contracted amount. However, if they have done something, which makes you believe that they will only ever charge less, and they knew they were doing this, then you might be able to argue that they are "estopped" from requiring you to pay more now. It's likely to be a difficult argument to succeed with, but in theory, if you can show the council elected or agreed to accept less, then you may be able to avoid liability for paying the rest. Obviously, the council are likely to try and fight this because I expect it's a decent sum of money difference.
My landlord has not yet asked for the difference, but continue to take an amount per month which is quoted in the letter as being the amount relating to one week!
If you contacted the landlord and said thank you for the figures, and that you were going to budget on the basis of their calculations, then if they acknowledge that, it might give you grounds to refuse to pay the difference later if they notice. That's because it sets you up to argue that they were aware of you financing based on their own figures and that's the sum they wanted for the rent.
It's all about principles of fairness when the court comes to look at this.
If ... the court comes to look at this!
To be honest, it's best to try and put away (if you can) the correct amount into another account, so if you do get faced with an action later on, then you can deal with it, by paying in full if you have to, or at least have a pot of money to call on to do a deal with them.
Are you stating that I SHOULD contact the landlord, or that leave things as they are pro tem? The fact that they have not noticed year on year ... or to put it another way, each year they have accepted the situation as it currently stands - having altered the rent for time to time - and therefore as the money is paid by DD it was up to them to take the required amount they should be charging?
If they've been altering the rent from time to time, and this issue hasn't been noticed at all, then part of me would be tempted to leave it be, as you could then argue that they must have been considering the proper amount as part of a review under the lease. Hence, they chose to accept this lesser sum. However, by contacting them, if you get an acknowledgment along the lines I mentioned, then you are obtaining further evidence to help your cause but equally, increasing the prospect that the issue will be discovered. It's a judgement call for you really, but given what you say about the rent changes, if it were me, I would be tempted to carry on as you are without contacting them, but put the difference into another account just in case.
Due to the fact that I am currently in receipt of state pension + a small works pension, I would not longer be able to afford to pay for council tax, electricity, water, food and car!
The situation came to my notice when I noticed that a reduction amounting to less than £3 had not been made on the DD for the current week and I was going to mention it ... reference to documentation they had supplied showed the difference in what could be an expensive argument! I had been to their offices with regard to the fact that they had quoted a different amount of my income to reality ... and they had sent a reply which was explained in full. But the DD has not been changed.
Okay. This is an interesting one, the fact they haven't picked it up the low DD is a little surprising! Anyway, the botXXXXX XXXXXne really is that normally, you would be liable for the full amount,especially if you knew of the error on their part. However, if they raise the issue, you may be able to claim estoppel, which you would say prevents them seeking the back payments due to their election to take only a reduced amount and the fact they'd communicated to you an intention only to take the lesser amount. Like I said, it's an argument, but you can imagine how a Court might perceive this, especially if you knew there was an error.
Please define "estoppel"
Estoppel is a principle of "law" which basically relates to fairness. If, for example, somebody has a contractual right to £100 per week payment, but then they say "dont worry, I'm not going to charge you that, only £50 per week is okay", but they dont amend the contract (i.e. legally, £100 per weeks is still chargeable), then you would say there is an estoppel - i.e. they would be estopped (prevented) from relying on their strict legal right to the £100 a week. You must "change your position" to be able to rely on this though, and normally, that happens by people spending the extra money (in my example, the £50 per week) on things they wouldn't normally spend it on.
There are other examples and a more detailed explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel_in_English_law
Thanks for your advice. I am slightly more nervous than I was before!
Simply that I had never realised the mistake was being made and had assumed that my personal accounts were in order. Having noticed the small amount that they (the landlord) had charged being more than the amount they had stated would be charged for the 1st week in April
SOORY - pressed ENTER too soon ...
Having noticed they had made a mistake about my income - by less than £2 - I went to their offices and showed them a copy of a letter from the Pension department as proof. They explained how their system worked and sent confirmation of the new (my) financial situation. I then noticed that they were quoting an amount which equalled the amount I pay monthly as rent by direct debit as being the amount due for one week. I was going to comment about the difference, but on checking via the internet as to the amount of similar housing for rent charges in this area, I realised that their error could cost me an enormous amount of money I simply do not have! I would not have allocated such "extra" money I NOW realise that I have had on living expenses. This is why I wanted to know whether or not I was liable for the Council's mistake in not collecting the proper amount of rent each year since the direct debit was first opened ... which was long before my wife died. I have been living in this house since 1988 - initially as a joint tenant (with my wife) and now as the sole tenant since she died in 2007 [not 2006 as originally stated]. Thus I am somewhat nervous as to what might happen in the future!
Well I can understand why you might be concerned as to what may happen in the future. It is their mistake for taking less, and this of itself might give you an entitlement to raise it with the Local Government Ombudsman in the future if you need to, but I think it only right you appreciate the true position moving forward. There are no guarantees here, and the best way often of resolving these issues is to face them head on, and try and reach an agreement with the council. That said, any moneyo wed to the council which is 6 years or more old will not have to be paid back - it will be statute barred. So that's the "window", and if you can get past that, sums over this age will not need to be repaid.
It would appear from your comment re statute barred, that c.£57,500 has been knocked off a debt that might be requested! Phew, that is a start. I think it would be about time to consider moving from my present abode to a one-bedroomed house and presumably a lower rent.
Yes, that would be a sensible thing to consider. I'm pleased there is potentially some good news in this!
Thank you. I feel better having talked to someone who knows about legal matters!
My having dug out all the correspondence between my landlord and myself over the past several years, I have discovered that by a pure coincidence the amount of rent I pay per month at present for April IS the same figure as given for the amount of rent for the first week in April + the amount per week x 3 for the remainder of April, less Housing Benefit entitlement and discount for paying by direct debit.Hey ho! At least I have learnt to keep all papers relating to a subject in one place and take a deep breath and do calculations prior to contacting a legal beagle and coughing up an unnecessary £33. You earned the fee due to my panicking!Have a good Easter!Thanks