Welfare benefits when sharing flat with friend

Artmuzz

Artmuzz

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#1
At the moment and for the past 15 years I have been living alone in a one bedroom flat. However, since 2015 after having a severe panic attack and suffering severe anxiety, depression and panic disorder I am scared to live alone now. My friend suggested that I could move into her flat or she would get another flat with two bedrooms but I am worried that this will affect my ESA benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit. At the moment my friend is on unemployment benefit (universal credit) However, she is hoping to get back into employment in the near future. I was wondering if I could move in with my friend and still receive ESA benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit? Please advise.
 
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TheRedStar

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#2
Using my own personal experiences as reference, the possible problem here relates to housing benefit. I don't think your ESA should be affected given that your friend is neither a relative nor a partner, and I think you should end up actually paying less council tax as you'll be splitting the bill between two people, which will work out cheaper per person despite the loss of single occupant discount (plus you could be eligible for a different sort of 25% discount on the overall council tax bill via second adult rebate, so check that out).

However, from what you've written, I'm guessing that you and your friend both currently claim the rate for a one bedroom self-contained property? If so, then - unfortunately - moving in together will probably mean that you'll both subsequently only be eligible for the self-accommodation rate, which is significantly lower.

The differences in criteria between these rates isn't always very clear or obvious, so much so that I moved into my current accommodation based on information provided to me by someone working for the local council (i.e. who should have known what they were talking about!) that I'd be able to claim the one bedroom property rate. However, after actually moving (because I couldn't start the claim until I'd relocated, as I was required to submit a tenancy agreement), it turned out that in actual fact I was only eligible for the shared accommodation rate, and so suddenly I was left with a £40 per week shortfall to cover.

It seems to me that the rules here must be a bit oblique if they're not always clear to even the people who are employed in this area, as was the case with the gentleman I spoke to. Plus, I'm generally not a stupid person, but I was unable to confidently work out which of the two rates I'd be eligible for (it doesn't help that the available information for this and other benefits is written in 'legalese', which is basically a language within a language... the individual words make sense, but the sentences they're used to form are often cryptic and clunky, hence the Plain English Campaign).

What I found confusing was that having one bedroom in a property doesn't mean you're eligible for the one-bedroom rate - if the other rooms are shared, then you'll only be able to claim for shared accommodation. The only way around this, as I understand it, is if you have a kitchen each, a bathroom each, or if there's another room which one of you has 'exclusive' use of (and even then I think only the person who the spare room 'belongs' to can claim the one-bedroom rate; the other will, I think, remain stuck on the shared accommodation payment).

Of course, a two bedroom flat with two kitchens or two bathrooms is pretty unusual - my downstairs neighbours have a second bathroom, but that was a deliberate renovation they made before moving in; where the shitty design of my flat has separate bathroom and toilet rooms, with a boiler cupboard between them (why not just have a single big room, with the boiler cupboard at one side of it?!), the people downstairs made the boiler cupboard smaller (as boilers have become a lot smaller since these flats were built), and used the space they saved to fit a toilet into the bathroom, and add a shower and wash basin to the toilet room.

You might be able to cover any shortfall by claiming for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), and basing your claim on having moved in with someone else because living alone was proving detrimental to your health. However, the operative word is 'discretionary', and even if you can get it the award is short-term (I was once granted it, but only for six months), so you have to go through the application process - and the worry of waiting for a decision - relatively frequently.

Please don't take my words as gospel - I would personally advise speaking to Citizens' Advice about all of this - but the above is what I've personally experienced, and how I've understood the decisions which have been made about my situation. The whole shared accommodation/one bedroom thing with housing benefit really stuffed me up at the time though, and continues to have an effect upon my life five years later - I really don't want to move out from where I am because my housemate is a friend, I (touch wood...) get on well with my landlord and landlady - who are personal friends of my housemate and who haven't raised the rent in six years! - and there isn't much alternative accommodation that's both available and affordable to a single male reliant upon benefits (I've no chance of getting a social property, and I've seen 'no DSS' signs in local lettings agents... 'DSS' doesn't even fucking exist any more, you ignorant prejudiced bastards). However, that £40 per week shortfall doesn't pay itself, so I work a few hours a week despite being in the ESA Support Group, ergo not being under any 'official' duress to find a job. I ended up balancing the stress of moving against the stress of doing 12hrs per week paid employment, and decided that the latter was the least worst option.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
 
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Funnyday

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#3
If I'm not mistaken. I currently receive about £75 a week as a part of my esa payment for living alone. Best to call the esa helpline and run it by them to see what effect it would have. Just say that you're thinking of joining a friend in a flat share. See what they say. Then once you know their position you can make an informed choice.
 
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ramboghettouk

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#4
If I'm not mistaken. I currently receive about £75 a week as a part of my esa payment for living alone. Best to call the esa helpline and run it by them to see what effect it would have. Just say that you're thinking of joining a friend in a flat share. See what they say. Then once you know their position you can make an informed choice.
that 75 pound is due to disapear when esa becomes universal credit worries me
 
Artmuzz

Artmuzz

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#7
Thanks for the replies. I didn't realise that the £75 living alone payment will be stopped once ESA moves to Universal Credit. Damn bloody Tories again! :(
 
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ramboghettouk

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#8
Thanks for the replies. I didn't realise that the £75 living alone payment will be stopped once ESA moves to Universal Credit. Damn bloody Tories again! :(
but potentially if your sharing you'll share billls which may be cheaper
 
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Funnyday

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#9
I had worked out that the change to Universal Credit. Would result in my benefits being about £10 a week worse off. So not the end of the world.
 
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ramboghettouk

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#10
according to the guardian theres a guy on the same level of pip as me whose moved into a universal credit area and has lost the severe disability premium and the disability premium 75 pounds a week he was asking for a judicial review

i live in a flat in london expensive without any family support, fathers dead mothers senile in home, brother who was in london though he never visited has had heart surgery and a stroke is now in rehab hospital, my little sister hasn't spoken to me for 40yrs my eldest sister has enough on her plate caring as it is

whether i can even handle the cut if true, food banks, my ex has recently had her pip stoppped turned up for a free meal couldn't handle the waiting and queing, i could have the same difficulty

maybe i'll have to go into a care home, will cost them more but who am i to question the wisdom of our great leaders
 
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ramboghettouk

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#11
just looked at the legal challenge the amount is 178 a month