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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I have been invited into an interview under caution with the

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I have been invited into an interview under caution with the DWP. this is just another present my ex partner has bestowed on me since we split 3 years ago. Social services and the police have called many times. so the DWP is new for me.
I rang DWP for more information - they have been given information that I have a second property and have an income from it. I do have a second property but thought I had sold it when I was completing the paperwork for benefits. The sale fell through and given my mental health condition and the extra stress my ex puts on my by involving Social services and the police I truly forgot about changing my circumstances with the DWP. The hse has been rented off and on over the past 3 years so overall I am losing money not making on it. Its in negative equity otherwise I would have sold it.
what information will the interviewers have on me? mortgage statements? bank statements etc? would they give me a list of their questions before the interview so I can prepare? what should I take with me to the interview?
I am totally stressed out and worried sick.
what is the likely outcome given this is my one and only offence?

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

Do you admit that you may have been overpaid benefits?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

even though I have a second hse I haven't made any profit from it and cant sell it because of negative equity so don't know if that makes a difference to my benefits?

I have received ESA; hse benefit; DLA; council tax rebate; child tax credit.

No, I understand but you didn't declare this?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

no I did not declare the second house

Thank you.
The difficulty with this is that which ever way you look at this, sadly, the property should have been declared. You receive a means tested benefits and so they were entitled to know that you have a property. It doesn't matter for the purposes of innocence or guilt whether or not you have an income or equity in the property.
Of course, he has done this to get revenge. That is not a defence per se.
On your specific points, the interviewers won't ask you to bring any information but they might ask you to consent to them having sight of your mortgage statements and bank accounts.
They will not give you questions so that you can prepare. That would defeat the purpose of an interview I'm afraid.
The likely outcome really depends. There is no way around the fact that you have committed an offence. The only question is whether or not they are of the view it is in the public interest to prosecute bearing in mind that there is no equity or income. It is difficult to say. Different areas take different views. There is a general crackdown upon this type of activity at the moment though I'm afraid.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for your reply Jo. Yes looking back I was stupid. Hind sight is great eh!

Can you clarify what the options available to the DWP are given its a first offence lack of equity and income? best and worse case scenario and those in-between.

Can they make me sell either house?

would they stop all benefits to repay?

Could they make me replay all benefits even though there has been little or no income?

How can they check what income I have received?

Would they have my bank statements at the interview or obtain them after? you say they may ask me to consent to having sight of them ? would they ask me to sign something at the interview? What if I refuse?

What if I take some statements with me?

I can't remember who I rented the house too and when - I have asked the council tax office but they refused to assist due to data protection. How can the DWP find out?

Obviously the current tenants I know but I am only receiving £20 a month profit BUT have paid out c£2k on repairs that is excluding the work currently being done as we speak as the kitchen ceiling has collapsed due to a long standing leak in the bathroom that has rotted the bathroom joists!! I don't know what the final bill for this will be but estimate so far is c £600.

I have some receipts for work that has previously been done on the house would it be worth showing them as evidence of no income?

How will the DWP actually work out what I have been overpaid if I cant even confirm when I have had tenants?

Can I get legal aid to pay for a solicitor to attend with me? is it worth having one?

What advice would you give me in my approach to the interview and more importantly during the interview?

Sorry to keep to just bombard you with all these questions but I am worried sick - how can I tell my 6 year old daughter that yet again her father and his girlfriend has messed up our lives....

They can either prosecute, let you repay the overpayment or take no action.
Yes, they could make you repay benefits and they probably will I'm afraid.
They could make you sell the house but that won't happen. There is no point in it for them.
They can get access to your bank statements even if you refuse. They will just have to hand the matter over to the police who can use their powers to seize.
The work that you did is a non issue. The question is whether you received rent of any kind and whether you declared it. The fact that you had running expenses will not be considered I'm afraid.
If you had a property and still claimed a means tested benefit then they will take the view that the benefit payment was an overpayment.
It is a good idea to have a solicitor if possible. You used to get them for DWP interviews but you don't always any more. It is a good idea to try.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Jo

so whether the second house was rented out or not is not considered the only question they want to know is whether I have a second house?

the fact that its in negative equity and so I cant now afford to sell it is also not considered?


Yes, basically although they will still want to assess the rental income.
The fact it is in negative equity is a non issue I'm afraid
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thanks Jo not a good picture is it

I will ponder on this and come back to you tomorrow.

No problem and all the best.
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