Zebra Training Services

For All Your Housing Benefit, Council Tax, Universal Credit & Welfare Reform Training Needs

Housing Benefit Eligibility, Commerciality & Contrivance

Rent Liability, Eligible and Ineligible Payments for HB purposes


This Workshop looks at the issues that influence a decision by the Council or DWP to refuse Housing Benefit / Universal Credit housing element on the grounds that the claimant’s tenancy is not on a commercial basis. This difficult subject continues to generate large numbers of Housing Benefit appeals and assessment officers often feel ill-equipped to make decisions with confidence.  While there is seldom a simple right or wrong answer to the question whether a tenancy is on a commercial basis, the Workshop aims to provide delegates with the knowledge to make fair decisions and notify tenants in a clear way.  



Dates for January 2018 to be announced shortly.


This Workshop is available for in-house training

purposes for individual organisations.



Housing Benefit (and, now, a Universal Credit housing element) cannot be paid if the claimant’s rent liability is of a kind that Parliament has decided would be an abuse of the HB or UC scheme. The most difficult of all of these cases are those where the liability is not on a commercial basis. Identifying such a case is not easy - there are no hard and fast rules, it is often a subjective judgement. This workshop is entirely dedicated to the complex issues relating to non-commercial tenancies.


The Workshop looks at the HB rules governing questionable tenancies, with particular emphasis on the factors to take into account when deciding whether a liability is on a commercial basis and/or has been created to take advantage of the HB scheme. We will then look at the warning signs that often trigger closer scrutiny, for example:


  • Are the landlord and tenant closely related – especially if the tenant is vulnerable (e.g. a grown-up disabled child). Is the owner of the property going to conduct himself/herself like a landlord or like a parent?
  • Is the landlord only interested in having this particular tenant – would s/he even consider renting the property to someone else?
  • Has the landlord complied with legal duties such as planning permission, gas safety certificates, etc.?  What conclusions should be drawn if s/he has not?
  • Is the claimant living in a religious or spiritual community where s/he is required to surrender personal freedom and adhere to a certain lifestyle? While such requirements might be understandable in terms of achieving successful outcomes (especially recovery from substance misuse) is the arrangement too one-sided to be viewed as a commercial bargain struck between buyer and seller?

The workshop also looks at other issues affecting the eligibility of payments for HB. HB Officers and customer advisors may sometimes struggle with aspects of property law that are referred to in the HB Regulations: “trustee”, “beneficiary”, “fee simple”. So the day will begin with a short basic introduction to property law terminology. We will then consider the particular HB provisions that rely on property law terminology:


·       Refusing HB because the claimant is or was previously the “owner” of the property: What exactly does “owner” mean?

·       Liability to pay rent to a trustee: In what circumstances is such a liability most likely to come about?

·       What are the requirements for a “long tenancy” to exist and what about the exception allowed for a “shared ownership” long tenancy?


But the majority of the day is devoted to the concepts of “commerciality” and liabilities that are “created to take advantage of the HB scheme” (usually referred to as “contrivance”).  We will look at the many Upper Tribunal decisions on commerciality and contrivance and focus on the key issues arising from them including:


·       What exactly does “commercial” mean?

·       What kind of behaviour by a landlord would suggest a relationship that is other than on a commercial basis?

·       At what point is a liability “created” to take advantage of the HB scheme?


From the experience of appeal cases referred to us and questions sent by HB practitioners, one very important part of dealing with contrivance and commerciality is explaining the Council’s decision to the claimant, so the day therefore includes an exercise in which delegates will attempt to set out the reasons why the Council has rejected an HB claim.


Presented by Peter Barker, the Workshop’s interesting examples will help delegates to understand the key issues involved on this often complex area of housing benefit administration.



   9.30 –  9.45  Arrivals and coffee/tea

         9.45        Introductions and course overview

 11.15 – 11:30  Coffee/tea break

   1:00 –   2:00  Lunch break

   3.00 –   3.15  Coffee/tea break

         4.30        Workshop ends.


Topics Covered:


·      Background and history

o   How the HB Regulations have dealt with commerciality over the years

o   Up to 1999

o   Since 1999

o   The future – Universal Credit and commerciality


·      Danger signs

o   Close relatives and friends

o   Vulnerable young adults

o   Spiritual communities

o   Unique tenants


·      The content of the agreement

o   Form of tenancy – in writing, wording

o   Unenforceable terms


·      Meaning of “commercial”

o   Motives of the parties


·      Conduct of the tenancy

o   Landlord’s attitude to rent arrears

o   Keeping relationship at “arm’s length”

o   Audit trail


·      Notifying the decision

o   Explaining how you have reached a subjective decision

o   Findings of fact

o   Conclusions drawn from the facts


Your Presenter - Peter Barker


Peter has worked in the field of benefits since 1985, and first became a local authority Appeals Officer over 25 years ago. His previous posts include working for the Citizens Advice, Westminster City Council and the Local Government Ombudsman, where he edited the in-house Housing Benefit practice note He combines a wealth of first-hand experience with expert knowledge of adjudication legislation, and has a real enthusiasm for the topic. He now works as a trainer, appeals presenter/submission writer and specialist adviser. Peter is an expert on the decisions and appeals adjudication framework and European rights of residence. He has a detailed knowledge of case law and he has recently developed a methodology for resolving disputes about supported and exempt accommodation. Peter now represents many local authorities on Housing Benefit appeals cases on a wide variety of issues in England, Wales and Scotland - at both First-tier and Upper Tribunal level. As well as an in-depth knowledge of Housing Benefit topics such as ‘Persons From Abroad’, ‘Exempt Accommodation’, and ‘Appeals & Tribunals’, he has also become well-known for his knowledge and courses on the new Welfare Reform and ‘Universal Credit’ legislation. Peter has presented and developed hundreds of courses over the last few years and his analytical skills and enthusiasm for his subject are unmatched. 



Booking Fee: £260 + V.A.T.

Includes lunch, comprehensive course notes and refreshments.







It is essential that we receive your Booking Form with an Official Order Number if your organisation's procedures stipulate these must be provided. You will be informed within 3 working days by email when this has been received and that your place(s) are reserved, otherwise you should contact us to confirm the booking has been received. Substitutes to the persons named on the Booking Form may attend right up to the day itself. However, it would be helpful if we could be advised of this beforehand, and also informed of any special dietary needs of the person(s) that are substituting.


Do you have more than 4 people requiring this training, but not sufficient for an in-house Workshop? Often this may apply to Workshops suitable primarily for Team Leaders/Supervisors. Please contact us for details of our special discounts which can provide a cost-effective solution to meeting your training needs.

To book online please: 


Post / Email:  Please complete the Booking Form, Post / Attach and send to: :


Zebra Training Services Limited

P.O. Box 268, Wigan, WN5 8FQ


E-mail:  mail@ZebraTraining.co.uk   Tel: (01942) 222078


You will be invoiced for the Booking Fee – you do not need to send payment when booking. Cancellations received in writing within 10 days of the Workshop date, or non-arrival, will be charged at the full registration fee. Cancellations received in writing within 11-28 days of the Workshop will incur an administration charge of 35% of the fee above. Cancellations received in writing within 10 days of the Workshop date, or non-arrival, will be charged at the full registration fee. Substitutes may attend on the day without prior notice. Substitutes may attend on the day without prior notice. A copy of the full Terms & Conditions is available from Zebra Training Services on request.

Zebra Training

Services Limited

P.O. Box 268

Wigan, WN5 8FQ


Tel: 01942 222078




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Available 'in-house' for individual orgaisations - a very topical and popular selection of Workshops designed for either local authority HB staff or housing associations/other landlords.


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