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.