Charges & Allowances

Overview

SFA and SSFA are charged according to the Combined Accommodation Assessment Scheme (CAAS).

SFA and SSFA in BFG are still being charged according to the old 4 Tier Grading Scheme.

Charges are set by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, which is independent of MOD and DIO. The charges are subsidised compared to what you would pay on civvy street to reflect the lack of choice and other issues associated with Army life.

Charges are taken directly from your soldier’s pay so when you move, it is very important to check that you are paying the correct amount for your new SFA/SSFA.

Contents

01   Universal Credit – housing costs element

Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit being rolled out to replace the old legacy benefit system, including Housing Benefit; and UC now includes a housing costs element.

Under the previous benefit rules, serving personnel living in SFA were unable to claim Housing Benefit for help with their housing costs, as they were treated as Crown Tenants. This was an issue that AFF believed was causing disadvantage to Service families, and we had previously raised it at a high level.

We are delighted to share that this is no longer the case with the new Universal Credit system, meaning that any Service person living in SFA may now include their housing costs within their UC claim.

To apply for the housing costs element, you will need to provide evidence of the Service person’s occupation (a utility bill), payment (a wage slip showing payment of SFA costs) and liability (the licence agreement) to your work coach. The Department for Work and Pensions has also confirmed that specific guidance has been issued to all work coaches, so families should have no difficulty in claiming the housing costs element as part of their UC claim.

We are pleased to hear that a number of Service families are now successfully claiming the housing cost element of Universal Credit.

To find out more about Universal Credit, visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit or you can use this free benefit calculator to find out what you are entitled to claim www.entitledto.co.uk

AFF has discovered that it is not possible to claim the housing costs element of Universal Credit if you have separated from your Service person but remain in your SFA. This is because once the license to occupy the property has finished (at the end of your 93 days) you will be charged Mesne profits if you stay in the SFA (whether or not this has been agreed with the Loss of Entitlement Team (LOET)). Unfortunately, Mesne profits are not considered eligible housing costs under Universal Credit (in the way they were eligible under Housing Benefit), so any charges that are required after a tenancy has been ended will not be considered for the housing costs support within UC.

This is disappointing news but we are investigating further with DIO and will provide an update in due course.

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02   Another result for AFF – DIO to review CAAS location data

We’re delighted to be able to report that DIO has now reviewed some of the factors affecting proposed changes to Army families’ final CAAS band, specifically relating to location.

These changes were first reported in 2017, and the original timeline for implementation of these largely increased charges, based on CAAS location factors, was to be from September 2017, giving families at least 93 days’ notice.

It became apparent that in order to ensure that the data is accessible to families, some of the factors, including the broadband baseline, required further investigation.

As a result, no changes to final CAAS bands due to location were made until 1 April 2018, once the review had been completed. Families were notified, still giving the original amount of 93 days’ notice of any changes to the final CAAS band. The charges were not backdated.

For those families already at the final CAAS band, an adjustment was made to that banding, and for those still transitioning SFA, the location factors were taken into account and the final band for charge was amended.

AFF worked hard to help bring about this development and we’re pleased that DIO took our concerns on board and has worked to try to make the process simpler.

Find out more Contact our AFF Housing Specialist Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk

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03   AFF achieves housing success on behalf of Army families

AFF is delighted to announce that after taking families’ concerns surrounding recent letters about the Combined Accommodation Assessment Scheme (CAAS) banding to the DIO CAAS team they have agreed to take positive action to investigate the increased final charge issue some of you were facing.

Families’ evidence proves vital

Families contacted AFF to say they had received a letter advising them of a jump in grade, which meant some homes jumped by more than one band based on a review of location and surveys that had been conducted throughout the year.

However, families were told that they could only appeal on the location piece and not on anything relating to the survey results.

Affected families should have been forewarned about upcoming increases, where increases to the final band were as a result of surveys carried out since April 2016, and given a fair chance to appeal the decision, with increases only coming into force 93 days after receipt of notification.

After listening to your concerns, we approached DIO on your behalf.

Annual increases

If you are on a transition pathway for your CAAS band, you should not see an increase of more than one band per year; however, you could see an increase in your final band because of location or a recent survey, which means that your transition pathway will be extended.

AFF has asked DIO to review the process for informing families of the results of CAAS surveys and to ensure that, in future, any changes to final CAAS bands as a result of a survey will be communicated correctly and families given the opportunity to appeal the outcome in a timely manner.

AFF success

We’re now happy to say that DIO has agreed that, where the final banding of an SFA has jumped by two or more grades, it will be fully investigated.

For those of you still on a transition pathway you will not see a physical increase in charge over and above the agreed one band increase each year to take you to your final banding. However, those who were already at the final banding could have seen an increase in charge.

If this affects your property, you should receive a letter advising you that your SFA charge will be reset to its original transition path. Any overcharges should be refunded and if there is a change to the charge transition path advised on your initial CAAS letter in 2016, you will have 28 working days to appeal and no new charges will be implemented for at least 93 days. Policy is at JSP 464, Vol 3, Part 1, Chapter 7.

Future action

AFF has asked DIO that next year they ensure the letters reminding families of the increase in CAAS band due to transition pathways are sent out early March – these letters are simply reminders, you won’t be able to challenge its contents.

AFF has asked that any letters regarding a change to the final band as a result of surveys or data reviews follow the correct procedure and time frame and that families are given the chance to appeal where they feel any changes are not correct.

These letters should be sent out giving families 28 days’ notice of the date of assessment. A letter should then be sent giving notice of the change in charge effective in 93 days before any increased charges are applied and 28 working days in which to challenge the change.

Contact us

For further queries regarding this issue, please contact our Housing Specialist Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk

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04   Requesting a temporary charging band reduction for a loss of SFA amenities

If you experience a significant deficiency loss or reduction in amenities (eg heating or hot water), which lasts for seven days or more, contact the CA Helpdesk on 0800 707 6000 option 3 in order to request a temporary reduction in charging bands.

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05   SFA and garage charges 2018/19

For details of the charges for all initial CAAS bands and how they compare to the old 4TG charges, click here.

Click here to download the SFA and garage charges for 2018/19.

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06   CILOCT

Contribution in lieu of council tax (CILOCT) is what all families living in SFA/SSFA or soldiers in SLA pay instead of council tax. CILOCT is collected by the MOD and then paid to the councils dependent on how many SFA/SLA are in their area. If you are posted abroad, you no longer pay CILOCT (as of 1 April 2016) as part of the enhanced overseas package.

With effect from 1 April 2018, daily rates of CILOCT are:

TYPE £ DAILY
i 6.73
ii 6.45
iii 6.13
iv 5.18
v 4.67
D 4.24
C 4.03
B 3.69
A 3.05

CILOCT FOR SLA

 RANK  £ DAILY
 Officers 0.43
 SNCOs 0.31
 Other Ranks 0.11
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07   Garage charges

Originally a garage that is less than 4.3 metres in length and/or 2.3 metres in width (internal measurements) and less than 2.5m high was deemed sub-standard; DIO has changed the height requirement to 1.85m clearance height (at entrance with the door open).

Why?

Well that is what we asked and were given this answer:

  • To ensure the policy was fair and reasonable to the Service person and the tax payer
  • 2.5m was a high entrance threshold and not industry standard
  • Interpretation of height was inconsistent – was it the door or ceiling to floor? Now it is clearance for a vehicle to enter
  • 1.85m was chosen as it is the clearance required for a Ford Galaxy & BMW X5

What to do

If you have questions on garage charges, contact our Housing Specialist, Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk.

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08   CAAS: an update

AFF is aware that families are frustrated by the following issues regarding CAAS:

  • The final banding being much higher than the estimate letter
  • Inaccuracies in the final banding documentation
  • A confusing and less than accessible challenge process
  • A lack of detail on the assessment documentation explaining the criteria for grading
  • A lack of transparency on some data.

Below is an initial attempt by AFF to respond to your concerns.

Making a challenge

If you feel that your final CAAS Band is incorrect, AFF strongly advises you to challenge it.

It is better to put in a challenge than not – there have been successful challenges so far. Your challenge doesn’t have to be complicated, for example, “I am challenging due to noise/age of my kitchen/age of my boiler etc.” will suffice.

Where you can back up your statement with photos or videos, send those in as well.

AFF’s step-by-step guide to reading your assessment documentation and making a challenge.

  1.  Check your assessment type found on Enclosure 1 – top box. Are you survey or extrapolation (assessment made based on a survey of another property of an equivalent type)? If this is incorrect, then you should challenge the assessment.
  2. Check the condition of your property found on Enclosure 1. This is made up of four components. To crosscheck the standards we have attached the relevant documents to help you.

Safety hazard

An SFA fails the Decent Home Standard (DH) and DH+ if it contains a Category 1 hazard. SFA with a Category 2, 3 etc. hazard is still ‘Decent’. Take a look at the categories here.

Repair

This criterion has 15 components, of which 12 are classed as key (marked (K) on the table in JSP 464).

A property will not fail on age alone but can fail on condition alone

A single key component not meeting the relevant condition/repair standard will result in a fail. Two of the three non-key components not meeting the standard will result in a fail. Take a look at the components here and see Annex A to chapter 3 Table 1 serial 2.

Modernity

This criterion does consider age as a determining factor for pass/fail. The six components, of which three ‘fails’ are required for overall failure against this criterion, are:

  • A reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less)
  • A kitchen with adequate space and layout (AFF is still waiting for clarification on how this is calculated)
  • A reasonably modern bathroom (30 years old or less)
  • An appropriately located bathroom and WC
  • Adequate insulation against external noise (where external noise is a problem)
  • Adequate size and layout of common areas for blocks of flats

Thermal comfortThis criterion has a sole measure for pass/fail – the SAP score. SAP is the Standard Assessment Procedure recommended by the government for measuring energy ratings of new build residential dwellings.

SAP is calculated using a fixed set of data but this does not include the condition of a component e.g. the presence of double-glazing, but not whether they are in good condition – this will be considered in the criteria for repair.

The MOD hasn’t registered the SAP scores of their SFA with the National Home Energy Rating Scheme as there is no legal requirement to and there is a cost involved, but AFF is asking for the SAP score to be available to families. This was a disappointing oversight.

Band D and above ensures the property qualifies as a DH+. Take a look at the SAP rating.

3.  Check the scale of your property.

JSP 315 was used as a guide to scale of properties but not, as the DIO documents appear to read, as a guide to state of repair. For repair, please use JSP 464 as your guide. Take a look at JSP 315 here.

4. Check the location of your property.

Currently, this is not a straightforward procedure. We are working with DIO to see if it can be made more transparent for families. Please continue to challenge on this e.g. if you feel that the main road isn’t safe to walk down as it has no pavement, the nearest hospital has no A&E or is only for specific specialities or the bus only runs once a day etc.

5.  Broadband speed.

Ofcom figures are used for your postcode, however, if you feel that you don’t get the required speed, check your postcode against an Ofcom approved broadband checker such as www.broadband.co.uk. Screen shot the page to send as part of your challenge – the speed test will show your actual speed and is dependent on what you have going on in the background on your computer etc. However, it will also show you the standard phone line speed in your postcode.

NB: if you are further away from the exchange than the centre of the postcode, this may result in a slower speed.

Your FAQs answered

Do I still have to report repairs to CA?

Yes, this is very important. If your windows are draughty, you have a persistent mould problem or if your boiler keeps going off; this will create a record for your SFA and could help to show that repairs are needed which could affect the CAAS banding and will feed into future improvement plans.

Can I use all of JSP 315 as a reason for a challenge?

No, JSP 315 was only used as a guide to the upper level for scale of properties, not a guide to state of repair. For repair, please use JSP 464 as your guide.

I am living in an SFA above entitlement – what will I pay?

If you are living in an above entitlement SFA due to Service reasons (i.e. CA gave it to you and you didn’t request above entitlement) you will pay the lower of:

  • CAAS band A for the type of property to which you are normally entitled or
  • the CAAS band for the SFA you are currently occupying (this will still go through the transition phase of increments if applicable)

If you are in this situation and you haven’t received a letter, you must challenge the banding so that it will be correctly inputted to JPA.

When will my soldier see a change on their pay statement (JPA)?

CAAS bandings will be entered onto JPA prior to the 1 April 2016. Ensure your soldier checks their pay statement for the first few months to ensure that you are paying the correct amount. If you aren’t, please let Amey know and if you are underpaying, make sure you save the difference, as they will claim it back from you; they will also pay you back if you have overpaid.

Why is there such a difference between my estimated band and my final band?

The estimated bands were based on the existing information that DIO had on the SFA – for some this was simply the 4TG. Many of these were very out of date and hadn’t been updated when various improvements had been done to the house (these may have been before you moved in). As a result, when a survey was done it was found that the standard was higher than previously recorded.

Why is my banding different to my neighbour’s identical house?

There are many individual reasons why this may be the case based on hidden reasons such as repair or insulation. However, if you feel that the houses are the same, you should put in a challenge based on where you think the difference is. This is very important, especially if your SFA was extrapolated.

My SFA is down as being extrapolated – what does that mean?

For most estates, a sample number of similar SFA were surveyed – the surveys were independently assured and if they all came out the same then the whole estate was extrapolated based on those results. Consequently, there may be some properties which have fallen through the cracks if for some reason works carried out on the surveyed SFA hadn’t been replicated in the extrapolated SFA. If you feel that this is the case, please put in a challenge.

My soldier is away and I don’t want to challenge without their input – can I get an extension?

Yes, write to the CA CAAS challenge team and explain the situation. If you are part of a unit etc. who are away on tour or on exercise, approach your welfare team and ask them to put in for an extension for the unit.

I have further questions, who can help me?

For further support, please contact AFF Housing Specialist Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk

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09   Combined Accommodation Assessment Scheme (CAAS) - how to challenge

Once you have received the letter with your final banding (this should be at move-in), if you disagree with the band, you will have 28 days in which to challenge it.

You must base your challenge on factual errors and make it in writing via letter, email or using the template on DII. For a challenge template letter, click here.

The banding letter will give you full details of the challenge process and JSP 464 part 1 has all the details you need.

There is a set timeline for challenges and possible appeals to DIO, click here for more details.

If you have any issues or concerns, please contact the AFF Housing Specialist at housing@aff.org.uk

For more information, click here.

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10   Housing retention: an AFF win!

In 2014, all three Families Federations lobbied for a change to housing retention policy to allow spouses who had started a course or signed a work contract which tied in with a posting order, to retain their SFA if their soldier was short-toured.

AFF was delighted when this change to the policy was made, however, some families told us that, on moving at the end of the retention period, their move was considered to be mid-tour and they weren’t eligible for removals or Disturbance Expense (DE).

AFF in action

AFF raised this issue with the policy makers and is pleased to report that a change has been made for any family granted official retention for a specified period of time for;

  • Child’s education
  • Spouse’s training or education courses
  • Spouse’s requirement to give a contracted period of notice to employers, or
  • Essential medical treatment that cannot be transferred

In these circumstances, you will now be entitled to both removals and DE on moving at the end of the retention period, so long as your soldier has more than six months left to serve at the new duty station and the authority to retain your SFA was approved prior to their Report for Duty Date.

Want to know more?

To find out more about this, or any other housing issue, contact AFF’s Housing Specialist Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk. Click here for more information on entitlement.

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11   How charges raised on move-out are collected in the UK

All charges for damages and deficiencies on SFA and SSFA in the UK are now recovered from the soldier’s pay – this is to reduce the time and costs involved with chasing those who don’t currently pay on time (or at all). See the Move In / Move Out page for full details.

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12   Disturbance Expense - all you need to know

Entitlement to Disturbance Expense

“The aim of Disturbance Expense (DE) is to contribute towards the necessary additional expenses that arise when the Services require their personnel to make a qualifying move to or from a RWA on permanent assignment.”

We’ve all had those moves where DE has been more than the costs incurred with moving and also those where it doesn’t quite cover it – the amount of DE we receive is based on many factors such as mail redirection and transit insurance.

When are you entitled to DE?

MobiIity is the move of the Service person which provides eligibility to DE and not the move of the immediate family; in order to qualify, you must fit one of the following criteria;

  1. If your soldier has received a posting order to a new place of duty – if you are required to move, however small the distance, you will be entitled to DE.
  2. If you move mid tour for Service reasons (this includes a move due to increase in size of family, promotion or if you are asked to move by DIO Service Delivery Accommodation) you can claim DE; if moving for compassionate, welfare or medical reasons, get your Unit Welfare Officer (UWO) to help you put up a claim to PACCC via the Commanding Officer (CO) – if this is successful then you will get DE.
  3. If you are required to move SFA to an alternative accommodation while waiting for a posting order.

How do you make a claim?

Claims for DE may be submitted 45 days before the expected move date. Your soldier needs to claim using the JPA on-line self-service system.

For those with no access to the JPA on-line system, JPA Form F018 is to be submitted to unit HR admin staff.

The unit HR admin staff will then check the claim prior to its authorisation by the unit Allowances Checker and input to the JPA system via an Element Entry.

How will you be paid?

The appropriate rate of DE and Child Element may be paid in advance of, but not more than 30 days prior to, a DE qualifying move.

DE payments will be made via your soldier’s salary i.e. at the end of the month so make sure you apply before that month’s pay run has gone in or you may find that you move before you get DE!

If you have any queries on whether or not you are entitled to DE, ask your RAO or UWO.

If you have any issues with entitlement to DE, contact Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk.

Expenses that Disturbance Expense contributes towards:

a. Preparation of current accommodation for move out/sale/letting (e.g. the cost of paint for making good, commercial cleaning, window cleaning, dry cleaning, laundry).
b. Mail redirection.
c. Additional cost of postage/telephone calls.
d. Loss of food (opened packets/non transportable).
e. Installation of domestic appliances.
f. Alterations to electrical fittings (e.g. plug/voltage changes on assignment to/from overseas).
g. Clearance of garden/household rubbish.
h. Provision or alteration of furnishings.
i. Installation of Satellite/Cable Equipment.
j. Insurance of stored items.

Expenses Included in the Child Element of the DE Rate:

a. School uniform.
b. School shoes.
c. School sports kit.
d. School books.

Expenses Excluded from the DE Rate. DE does not contribute towards the following as these may be covered by other allowances:

a. Hotel Costs.
b. Legal and estate agent’s fees and other fees associated with the buying/selling/ letting and repossession of property.
c. Removal of Personal Effects (PE).
d. Storage of furniture when not taken overseas at public expense.
e. Cost of a hire car when moving between UK and overseas.

Disturbance Expense Rates (from Apr 18):

Overseas moves to SFA/SSFA/Privately Owned/Rented £1,489
UK moves to SFA/SSFA/Privately Owned/Rented £1,041
Overseas moves to SLA/SSFA £294
UK moves to SLA/SSSA £103
Child Element (for each eligible child) £81

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