Anne Killeen, Senior Casework Manager
Z2K is a partner in the Pimlico Advice Hub, along with the Cardinal Hulme centre and Westminster Foodbank, where we provide advice and support. The Hub is based in St Gabriel’s Hall on the Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico. It was recently nominated for the best neighbourhood project award at the Westminster Community Awards.
Geoff and his partner approached the Hub in early 2016. The couple were facing eviction from their Council property due to rent arrears. The reason for this was that his Housing Benefit had stopped. They had recently started their own business, their own café. This had been their dream for years but the practicalities of starting the business had caused them many difficulties. They had had to take out a large loan to start up the business. As they couldn’t qualify for a business loan their bank had classified it as a personal loan. When the council realised they had the loan they stopped their Housing Benefit as it took them over the capital limits. The Council also made frequent and unnecessary requests pertaining to Geoff’s status as an EU national.
Geoff and his partner had tried to fight the decision with no success and consequently rent arrears had built up. The business was not making a profit so they should have qualified for Housing Benefit had the capital not been an issue. We took on their case and appealed the Housing Benefit decision. We argued that the loan should be counted as a business loan. We also felt that the way the council dealt with Geoff’s Housing Benefit issues constituted maladministration so the case was referred to our complaints department the result of which was an apology to him from the council.
During this period we also liaised with his Landlord to stop Possession Proceedings on the basis of the Pre-Action Rent Arrears Protocol that states no proceedings should begin while there are on-going issues with Housing Benefit. We put Geoff in touch with a solicitor should his case proceed to court. We won the Housing Benefit appeal and then sat down with Geoff and went through the income and expenditure of his business, presenting those documents to the council so that we could show that he and his partner were actually making a loss from the business. Geoff consequently qualified for Housing Benefit, which was backdated, clearing his rent arrears. When we closed his case Geoff’s rent account was in credit, his landlord has stopped possession proceedings and his business was starting to finally pick up.