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Alan de Enfield

Housing benefit will pay liveaboard's boat licence. Judge announces.

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Something else for local authorities to find money for !

 

From Narrowboat world :

 

 

Liveaboards can claim housing benefit for boat licence fees

Published: Tuesday, 30 June 2020

THE National Bargee Travellers Association has won a landmark case for liveaboards in that they can now claim housing benefit for boat licence fees.

Though the boat was their home in the case of liveaboards such as continuous cruisers, they were unable to claim housing benefit for boat licence fees, but the Association has had a landmark judgement issued  on the 25th June 2020 (AB v London Borough of Camden (HB) [2020] UKUT 158 (AAC)), the Upper Tribunal has confirmed that Housing Benefit is payable for boat licence fees.

The licence fee is rent

This is because the boat licence fee if living aboard is rent.  Specifically it is a payment in respect of a licence or permission to occupy a dwelling and thus it qualifies under Regulation 12(1)(b) of the Housing Benefit Regulations. Regulation 12(1)(b) is directly transposed to the Universal Credit Regulations so this judgement also applies to claims for the boat licence fee as housing costs in Universal Credit.

Upper Tribunal Judge Mr E Mitchell found that the boat licence without a permanent mooring qualifies under this regulation because the boat dweller without a permanent mooring [a continuous cruiser] is required to make a payment in respect of a licence to occupy the land, including land covered with water, that while moored, comprises part of his houseboat dwelling.

Covers boaters with a home mooring

Although the decision was made in respect of a boat licenced without a home mooring, it also covers boat licences with a home mooring (Housing Benefit for mooring fees is already within the scope of the regulations in Regulation 12(1)(f) which is also transposed to the Universal Credit regulations).

In paragraph 69 of the judgement, Judge Mitchell said:

"...a ‘dwelling’ is comprised of more than simply the houseboat. It includes the land used for the purposes of mooring it. When a houseboat is moored, the dwelling is comprised for housing benefit purposes of the houseboat itself, the canal or river bank used for mooring and, probably, also the land beneath the vessel (given the Interpretation Act 1978 definition of land, which includes land covered by water). If someone other than the person dwelling in the houseboat owns the land comprised within the houseboat dwelling, the owner in principle is free to licence its use, for mooring purposes, to that person."

He continued in paragraphs 82 and 83:

Licence fee constitutes rent

"I therefore conclude that payments made by Mr B to the Canal & River Trust were payments in respect of a licence to occupy that part of his houseboat dwelling comprised of land owned or managed by the Trust. It is not disputed that the payments are periodical in nature nor that they are made in respect of a dwelling occupied by Mr B as his home. The payments therefore fall within regulation 12(1)(b) of the 2006 Regulations and constitute ‘rent’ for the purposes of that regulation.

"It follows that the local authority, acting on 1st December 2016, did not establish a proper statutory ground for superseding Mr B’s award of housing benefit. The authority’s decision is set aside. For entitlement purposes, the result is that the authority’s actions on 1 December 2016 had no effect on Mr B’s existing housing benefit award. That is the effect of the decision given before the start of the reasons for this decision."

Insurance and BSS did not qualify

Unfortunately the judge also decided that the costs of compulsory third party insurance and Boat Safety Scheme examination did not qualify for Housing Benefit under Regulation 12(1)(b) on the grounds that these payments "...were made in respect of services necessary in order for the conditions for grant of a licence to be satisfied" and were not payments in respect of the boat licence itself.

The Judge made it clear that he was not drawing a distinction between a boat licence without a home mooring, a boat licence with a home mooring or a houseboat certificate: the decision covers all three. He also used the word 'houseboat' in the everyday sense to mean a boat that is used as a home.

Difficult period for boat dwellers

This welcome decision follows a difficult period for boat dwellers due to an adverse judgement in the Upper Tribunal in 2017 (Kirklees MBC v JM [2018] UKUT 219 (AAC)) which was undefended by the boater, and which had reversed a Social Security and Child Support Commissioners' decision of 2002 (CH 884 2002) that boat licence fees, regardless of whether the boater had a mooring, were eligible for Housing Benefit. From 2017, many boat dwellers both with and without a home mooring saw the Housing Benefit for their boat licence either withdrawn on review or refused with a new claim.

If you have been refused Housing Benefit for the boat licence fee or if your Housing Benefit was stopped, you can now either make a new claim or seek permission to appeal out of time. The same applies to those who claimed Universal Credit for the boat licence fee and were refused.

May be able to appeal out of time

If your Housing Benefit was refused or stopped and you did not appeal, you may be able to get permission to appeal out of time. If you did appeal, your appeal should have been stayed pending the outcome of this case and you should now contact the Tribunal with the judgement. If you appealed and your appeal was not stayed but was decided against you, then you should contact the Tribunal for permission to appeal out of time.

The boater was represented by barrister Justin Bates, instructed by the National Bargee Travellers Association. 
 
The full judgement is available here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5ef4c369e90e075c5582f510/CH_3284_2017-00.pdf

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I must admit that I thought that they already could - but it's a step in the right direction for less well-heeled boaters.

 

I also didn't know that housing benefit was paid by local councils; I thought it came from the dole office which I assumed was a national organisation. How, though, will it be established which council should pay for a boater's licence if, as a continuous cruiser, he'll probably move through the territories of several different councils during the course of a year?

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2 minutes ago, Athy said:

I must admit that I thought that they already could - but it's a step in the right direction for less well-heeled boaters.

 

I also didn't know that housing benefit was paid by local councils; I thought it came from the dole office which I assumed was a national organisation. How, though, will it be established which council should pay for a boater's licence if, as a continuous cruiser, he'll probably move through the territories of several different councils during the course of a year?

Exactly, we just been wondering about that, waiting for answer to that one😳

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How can a local Council pay a years license fee for a ‘Continuous’ Cruiser, who must surely leave the area during the year. Does this not just apply to a liveaboard on a residential mooring within the council’s jurisdiction?

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5 minutes ago, Athy said:

I must admit that I thought that they already could - but it's a step in the right direction for less well-heeled boaters.

 

On the flip side, I guess the question that some might be asking is whether it's a step in the right direction for council tax payers? Especially given that many liveaboards don't pay council tax in the first place. 

 

I'm not saying what's right or wrong, but I'm sure if you asked, most land-based council tax payers might have an opinion.

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2 minutes ago, blackrose said:

 

On the flip side, I guess the question that some might be asking is whether it's a step in the right direction for council tax payers? Especially given that many liveaboards don't pay council tax in the first place. 

 

I'm not saying what's right or wrong, but I'm sure if you asked, most land-based council tax payers might have an opinion.

I suspect some councils will think hang on if we are having to pay out on these licences how can we make up the loss.   Look out CCers who don't moveabout much.

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13 minutes ago, Athy said:

I must admit that I thought that they already could - but it's a step in the right direction for less well-heeled boaters.

 

I also didn't know that housing benefit was paid by local councils; I thought it came from the dole office which I assumed was a national organisation. How, though, will it be established which council should pay for a boater's licence if, as a continuous cruiser, he'll probably move through the territories of several different councils during the course of a year?

Lol. Its been brought about by the National bargees non travelers association. They think having to move to the nearest water point is continuous cruising!

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2 minutes ago, blackrose said:

 

 

 

 I'm sure if you asked, most land-based council tax payers might have an opinion.

I am one. I've expressed my opinion. Just because I'm (touch wood) comfortably off doesn't mean that I think that people who aren't shouldn't receive help. I would guess that I'm in the majority here.

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

I am one. I've expressed my opinion. Just because I'm (touch wood) comfortably off doesn't mean that I think that people who aren't shouldn't receive help. I would guess that I'm in the majority here.

That's a triple negative. I have no idea whether you think help should or shouldn't be available.

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9 minutes ago, blackrose said:

 

On the flip side, I guess the question that some might be asking is whether it's a step in the right direction for council tax payers? Especially given that many liveaboards don't pay council tax in the first place. 

 

I'm not saying what's right or wrong, but I'm sure if you asked, most land-based council tax payers might have an opinion.

am one, dont know how the benefit system works but dont people who live on land get similar benefit? (dont pay council tax but get free accommodation or house rent)

think its much cheaper for council to pay license fee.

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19 minutes ago, Nightwatch said:

Does this not just apply to a liveaboard on a residential mooring within the council’s jurisdiction?

 

51 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Although the decision was made in respect of a boat licenced without a home mooring, it also covers boat licences with a home mooring (Housing Benefit for mooring fees is already within the scope of the regulations in Regulation 12(1)(f) which is also transposed to the Universal Credit regulations).

 

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24 minutes ago, Nightwatch said:

How can a local Council pay a years license fee for a ‘Continuous’ Cruiser, who must surely leave the area during the year. Does this not just apply to a liveaboard on a residential mooring within the council’s jurisdiction?

I must admit I thought the same. How do they decide which local authority a CCer lives in so which local authority to claim from if they are travelling around as they should be.

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7 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

Well done to the NBTA, making the RBOA look obselete yet again.

I've heard of both but don't know the difference. They sound as if they should have similar aims; don't they?

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1 minute ago, Athy said:

They sound as if they should have similar aims; don't they?

You'd hope that all boat 'associations' would have similar aims, unfortunately they don't and the NBTA (No Boats Travel Anywhere) have very differing aims to the other associations.

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I'm not convinced that drawing more attention to itinerant boat dwelling is beneficial for itinerant boat dwellers. 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, magnetman said:

I'm not convinced that drawing more attention to itinerant boat dwelling is beneficial for itinerant boat dwellers. 

 

 

It's helpful to boaters at risk of losing their homes because they can't claim housing benefit.

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From a purely financial point of view it is far cheaper for a local authority to pay a year's licence fee rather than have to find the ex-boater's family (boat having been seized by CRT) rented accommodation.

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17 minutes ago, magnetman said:

I'm not convinced that drawing more attention to itinerant boat dwelling is beneficial for itinerant boat dwellers. 

 

 

Is there any reason that it should be detrimental?

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1 hour ago, Nightwatch said:

How can a local Council pay a years license fee for a ‘Continuous’ Cruiser, who must surely leave the area during the year. Does this not just apply to a liveaboard on a residential mooring within the council’s jurisdiction?

since some councils in expensive areas of London have been accused of moving people out of London to save money I presume their is a mechanism, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/01/english-councils-breaking-law-in-secretly-relocating-homeless-people

Edited by Phoenix_V

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

Is there any reason that it should be detrimental?

I'm probably just a sceptical cynic but it seems to me that if canals become too housing oriented then some discussions will take place and living on boats on a non fixed basis may be removed as an option. 

 

There is no way that canals will be allowed to become slum housing areas. 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, magnetman said:

I'm probably just a sceptical cynic but it seems to me that if canals become too housing oriented then some discussions will take place and living on boats on a non fixed basis may be removed as an option. 

 

There is no way that canals will be allowed to become slum housing areas. 

 

 

Have you been on the Regent's Canal recently?

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Yes I do know the area well and have travelled Limehouse to Brentford and back via canal last month.  

 

It's not a slum yet ;) it's going that way but not there quite yet. 

 

All we need is a few loud voices shouting about rights and it will all go tits up. 

Edited by magnetman

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Interesting that ground rent isn't accepted as part of the benefit claim for land dwellers but the 'water rent' will now be available for boaters...

 

I suppose the licence fee is more like a service charge for land dwellers which is payable under benefit claims. (service charge covers things communal rubbish collection, grass cutting, window cleaning path maintenance, access maintenance etc.).

 

 

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1 minute ago, StationMaster said:

Interesting that ground rent isn't accepted as part of the benefit claim for land dwellers but the 'water rent' will now be available for boaters...

 

I suppose the licence fee is more like a service charge for land dwellers which is payable under benefit claims. (service charge covers things communal rubbish collection, grass cutting, window cleaning path maintenance, access maintenance etc.).

 

 

 

Liveaboard boaters can already claim the mooring costs so, that is maybe an equivalent to 'ground rent' ?

The local authority where we were moored (some time ago) would actually pay the mooring AND the insurance, and the BSS and the Licence as they were all requisites of being granted a mooring.

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