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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I am in need of advise and help from a solicitor who is conversant

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I am in need of advise and help from a solicitor who is conversant with DWP and Benefit Law/Matters, is there anyone who is am expert in this field available?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

What would you like to know please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

DWP Cohabitation Interview




I am 71 retired in receipt of DLA & Housing Benefit, have a long term Lodger who is 45, so I'm old enough to be her father, she pays £35 week to cover room & board and is in receipt of Lower Rate DLA, has recently lost an ATOS Appeal pertaining to her Incapacity Benefit and is now on JSA.



I have 'Middle Rate' Care Component + 'Higher Rate' Mobility Component DLA. The DWP have deducted £7.50 PW for Lodger, the first £27.50 in not counted (2010)



She has her own room in which there is a SINGLE BED and the door can be locked & a Rent Book.



I also have a SINGLE BED in a separate bedroom



What would they look for and consider in their visit that would point to cohabitation., would they look in drawers for instance, or I'm told if there are 2 tooth brushes in the bathroom, they would consider this to be cohabitation.



Long Term Lodger came about approximately 18 years ago, since which time I have moved 3 times during that period, she has moved with me which may 'appear to be a bit odd' but there is a valid reason.



When we first met 18 years ago she was living with a long term boyfriend who was a Nightclub Bouncer who used to beat 7 bells out of her. One day when she came to visit, my them common law wife told her to stay with us as she could not go on being beaten on a regular basis. This she did and became our Lodger. A year of so later my common law wife and I parted company, the lodger stayed on. She has no family to speak of and is wary of men in general due to her experience with the Nightclub Bouncer, but has leant to trust me over time and it is therefore the reason she's been my Lodger for so long.



How would the following be viewed?



Having Meals together



Sit and watch TV together



Is it okay to Lend Money to Lodger



If I'm going downtown, is it okay to give her a lift



Food Shopping, can't she come with me



I'm told they look in drawers to see the content. I.e. type of clothes etc (Male & Female) and even check to see if there are 2 toothbrushes in the bathroom. Is the true?



As the Rent she pays me is so low, what if she contributed to other household bills. I.e. Electricity etc.



If they believe we are cohabiting, would that effect my Housing Benefit. I.e. Would it be stopped until such time as any 'Appeal' be heard?



Would they have access to Bank Accounts prior to their visit due next Monday



If they find cohabitation exists, does this become a criminal case and would this qualify for Legal Aid - if not how am I expected to defend my case.



ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OFF?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Have you not declared the fact that she is there?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes, always declared her at all times, in fact I have stated that in my second paragraph the amount I am deducted for having a lodger.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Sorry if I'm missing the point but I'm not sure what the relevance of your relationship is to them?

Is she claiming housing benefit for your payments ?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

She is not claiming housing benefit, I do as I am registered disabled.


 


Not sure exactly what you mean. I.e. "Sorry if I'm missing the point but I'm not sure what the relevance of your relationship is to them?"


 


Please clarify.


 


I should let you know now that I have a hospital appointment this afternoon, so will shortly be away from my computer, but back later this afternoon all being well.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Ok.

We can look at this when you like.

I'm not sure why they are investigating the status of your relationship with her? You have declared her presence there.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

They are a law unto themselves, so who knows. All I can tell you is that a letter was received to say to expect a 'Home Visit' Monday next in relation to possible cohabitation.


 


It is possible been bought about by the fact that she Appealed an ATOS Medical regarding her DLA she had been claiming and because she was ill and was unable to attend in person, I went on her behalf as the "say" you can be represented by someone else, albeit, they don't like it.


 


I've heard of other situation whereby they just turn up without warning just to try and catch people out so to speak. Go through the house with a fine tooth comb and if they as much as find 2 toothbrushes in the bathroom, deem that to confirm cohabitation and one can end up losing ALL benefits pending an Appeal, which can take over a year to get to court (How does one survive in the meantime is my REAL concern and at that point it becomes a 'criminal issue' THATS why it is sooooooo IMPORTANT that I get this right.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Well, they are entitled to investigate cohabitation undisclosed to them. However, I'm not sure that I can see it here. You have disclosed that she is there. What your relationship with her is not a consideration.

It might be a consideration if she was claiming housing benefit. Then she would need to disclose that you were in a relationship.

In any event, 'cohabitation' just means sharing expenses. Obviously that can be evidenced in a large number of ways. Eating meals together is really only evidence that food is jointly purchased which can amount to sharing expenses.

They will examine the house in fairly minute detail. They will look for any evidence of sharing expenses - jointly purchased food, jointly used services etc.

They do check things like clothes and evidence of sharing a bedroom but the only real purpose of doing that would be if the person living there had not been declared at all.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I've just had a short lunch break prior to leaving for my hospital appointment with I am not about to do, so will endeavour to 'take in fully' your reply to date, so will get back to you upon my return later today, or first thing tomorrow morning if I'm back late from hospital.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

No problem and all the best.

Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’. You can also bookmark my profile http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-remus2004/
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Okay Joe C


 


I'll pick this up again in the morning if that's okay with you as test have left me feeling a bit groggy.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes, no problem. Sleep well.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Good morning Jo C



Thank you for your kind understanding yesterday regarding my delay in dealing with this matter after my hospital visit.



I don't quiet know how to put this without appearing to be a little on the obnoxious side, that is not my intention and please forgive me if that appears to be the case, but as you might imagine, I have a great deal at stake here, I could at the end of the day be made homeless if the DWP get it into their heads that a cohabitation situation exists.



You are doubtless an excellent Barrister and conversant in criminal matters and you may recall that my original request to Just Answer was for a 'Specialist in DWP/Benefit' matters as it is an extremely complicated field of expertise.



I have done a great deal of research myself and as I say, it is very complicated indeed, one where it is essential that one has the correct knowledge pertaining to the matter in hand.



Last night I downloaded a PDF Document whereby there is a whole raft of information and questions which are likely to arise on Monday when the DWP make a home visit, little of which has been covered in our communication to date and I do not know how best to proceed in this matter, so at this point in time, I am none the wiser from what we have covered to so far.



As I said, I have no wish to be obnoxious that is not my intention, but I am very worried indeed and at 71 years of age and not in the best of health and had little sleep last night, if any. With next to no resources to fight these people if it comes to that I could be out on the street in no time at all.



Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.



I thank you for your valuable time.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
I cannot really add anything so I will opt out for you
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.

I see the expert has opted out - what else do you want to know?

Alex

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Morning Alex



I appreciate you have other matters to attend to, that is accepted, I too am away from the computer from time to time, but will respond asap at all times.



Okay, I'm assuming that you've read the forgoing, if not please do so. You mentioned that you work over the weekend, so as this matter will come to fruition first thing Monday morning, will you be available to me over the weekend also?



In a 'Nut Shell' I have a 'Long Term Lodger' and out of the blue the DWP have sent a letter to the effect that they 'Suspect' a cohabitation situation which, if found to be the case, I could lose ALL Benefits while the matter is contested.



As you will see, if you have read what has been written prior to this message, the circumstances surrounding this matter are somewhat unusual, never the less, at 71 and not in the best of health, IF I end up on the street so to speak, chances are I will not survive, hence just how important this matter REALLY is.



When I first contacted 'Just Answer' I made it VERY clear that I needed the services of an 'Expert in the field of DWP Benefits matters as it is a mine field so to speak. If you have expert knowledge, I would be most grateful for your assistance.



As to what I am waiting on, there are questions in my first communication which remain unanswered, so that would be a good starting point.



Many thanks for your valuable time.

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Sorry is my fault.

Could you perhaps repeat your questions here but number them so I can see what you are asking me?

Thanks in advance,

Alex

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Alex


 


Apologies from the delay in responding, I had to go out unexpectedly!


 


I was going to make the same suggestion.


 


However, will you be able to address my questions tomorrow, preferably in the morning. That way I can endeavour to sort out my questions in some resemblance of order and hopefully all in one go.


 


It would be helpful to know when you respond to this massage, when you will be available oner the weekend?


 


As I mentioned, this matter will come to my doorstep first think Monday morning.


 


Many thanks


 


Jeff

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Yes of course.

Alex

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Morning Alex



I have, as requested Listed my Questions below, but as circumstances are somewhat unusual, it is imperative that you first read through what I have written below in order to give appropriate advice.




DWP Cohabitation Interview



I am in need of advise and help from a solicitor who is conversant with DWP and Benefit Law/Matters



I am 71 retired, in receipt of DLA & Housing Benefit and Basic State Pension. I have a long term Lodger who is 45, so I'm old enough to be her father. She pays £35 week to cover room & board and is in receipt of Lower Rate DLA, has recently lost an ATOS Appeal pertaining to her Incapacity Benefit and is now on JSA.



I have 'Middle Rate' Care Component + 'Higher Rate' Mobility Component DLA. The HB have deducted £7.50 PW for Lodger, the first £27.50 in not counted (2010)



She has her own room in which there is a SINGLE BED and the door can be locked both inside and out & she has a Rent Book which I confirm payment every Monday for the £35.00.



I also have a SINGLE BED in a separate bedroom.



My Long Term Lodger came about approximately 18 years ago, since which time I have moved 3 times during that period, she had nowhere else to go, so she has moved with me which may 'appear to be a bit odd' but there is a valid reason.



When we first met 18 years ago she was living with a long term boyfriend who was a Nightclub Bouncer who used to beat 7 bells out of her. One day when she came to visit, my them common law wife told her to stay with us as she could not go on being beaten on a regular basis. This she did and became our Lodger. A year of so later my common law wife and I parted company, the lodger stayed on. She has no family to speak of and is wary of men in general due to her experience with the Nightclub Bouncer, but has leant to trust me over time and it is therefore the reason she's been my Lodger for so long. I.e. It is comfortable & safe environment for her.



How would the following be viewed?



(1) Would it be okay to have Meals together



(2) Watch TV together



(3) Is it okay to Lend Money to Lodger



(4) If I'm going downtown, is it okay to give her a lift in my care



(5) Food Shopping, can she come with me



(6) I was told by DWP that the 'Lodger' situation is different if (a) I provided food in with her Room Charge (b) If I supplied just the Room with NO food. How does that differ precisely (They wouldn't say.



(7) Which would be acceptable as communal Rooms



(9) What if any Leisure time could be spent together if any?



(10) I'm told they look in drawers to see the content. I.e. type of clothes etc (Male & Female) and even check to see if there are 2 toothbrushes in the bathroom. Is the true?



(11) If they believe we are cohabiting, would that effect my Housing Benefit, or any of my other Benefits



I.e. Would it be stopped until such time as any 'Appeal' be heard?



(12) Would they have access to Bank Accounts prior to their visit due next Monday



(13) As the Rent she pays me is so low, what if she contributed to other household bills. I.e. Electricity etc



(14) If they in their infinite wisdom believe cohabitation exists, would they immediately stop my Benefits, if so which ones.



(15) does this become a criminal case and would this qualify for Legal Aid - if not how am I expected to defend my case.



(16) What would they look for and consider in their visit that would point to cohabitation., would they look in drawers for instance, or I'm told if there are 2 tooth brushes in the bathroom, they would consider this to be cohabitation.



ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OFF?



Thanks for you advice & time Alex, clearly this is extremely important to get this right. At 71 years of age, in failing health, if benefits are stopped, I would no survive very long living on the streets.




.


Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Are there 16 questions to wish you know the answer, have I understood?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

17 actually if you count



'ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE MADE AWARE OF'



Many thanks



Jeff

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Ok. It may be later when I respond.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

No problem Alex, thank you.



I will also be on and off my computer throughout the day until quite late tonight.



I don't anticipate that there will be a need to come back to you after these questions, if your reply does not generate further questions, but just in case, are you available at all tomorrow Sunday at all?


Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
1 to 5 is no issue. You can do these this gas together. But the more you do the more it appears you are a couple living together. The more seperate your lives the less likely to consider partners.

6) There are two options a lodger without food included and a lodger with food. You are permitted to do both.

7) Anything save bedroom

9) see above. The more time you spend together the less likely it is to be a lodger

10) no

11) Yes because their income can be taken into account, you may not get benefit until the appeal is determined. They can stop payments until ordered to by a tribunal

12) Yes, they do not need a court order for this

13) That would show they are more than just a lodger. A lodger never pays anything apart from rent

14) Yes. I can't say which ones but a it would be the income based ones

15) If it is below £5000 and you have been overpaid it is likely to be a caution. Over this amount it will go to court. I can't say whether you would get legal aid as it depends on many things

16) No. If you share a bathroom there are likely to be 2 tooth brushes. They are unliekly to visit at home

Can I clarify anything else for you

Alex

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Just this is bit is unclear as you said "They are unliekly to visit at home".



They ARE coming here Monday Morning!



As I have no savings at all,



'IF' they decide to stop any Benefits, is there ANYTHING at all I can do to get ANY money to pay Rent and essentials such as Food as I've known Appeals to take a VERY long time to be heard. By that time I will have been out living on the street.


 

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Sadly no.

If they stop benefits then you won't get anything until your appeal is heard.

Very often they don't come to visit, which is why I am surprised.

But you don't have to show them around, but if you are living separately you can show this,

Appeals have changed, for DWP benefits you ask for a reconsideration first and then if not upheld appeal

Can I clarify anything else?

Alex

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you Alex for all of your input.



Payment has been taken from my Bank Account, so that matter has been taken care of.



There is a VERY GOOD chance that as far as JustAnswer/Your Goodself is concerned, the matter is now closed.



I would however like to keep the ability to communicate with you open, should I think of something else which is really important later today or tomorrow. I will 'Close Out' Sunday Evening.



Many thanks



Jeff

Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Of course.


If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.

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