Court rules benefit refusal unreasonable

The High Court has found that South Gloucestershire County Council was unreasonable in refusing housing benefit to a woman who was living in one of her father's houses.

The Housing Review Board had backed the council's decision to cancel Victoria Dadds' housing benefit in November 1995 because she was living in a building that was owned by her father.

According to South Gloucestershire County Council, this was not a commercial agreement but an underhand attempt at getting housing benefit.

But Dadds' solicitor, Kathryn Harriss, of Foster & Partners, took her case to the Queens Bench Division, arguing inadequate reasons had been given for the decision and that her client had a genuine housing need.

Finding in favour of Dadds, George Bartlett QC said a crucial factor was that there was a small difference between the £95 contractual rent set by Dadds father and the £78 market rent that had been set by the housing officer.

If such a disentitlement was right, landlords and tenants would agree rent at their peril, because if rent was pitched too high, housing benefit would be lost, said Bartlett. He ordered South Gloucestershire to review Dadds' case afresh.