Undisclosed Partners: Date on which Customers Became A Couple
The question of whether the customer was in reality a member of a couple is not just relevant to the date at which the claim commenced. Becoming or ceasing to be a member of a couple is a notifiable change of circumstances so it is also relevant at all other times during the year.
You will sometimes have evidence that places the suspected partner at the customer’s address at one or more dates during the year for example a series of letters signed by the partner to his/her employer or tax office. However, you may not be able to point to anything which strongly indicates their presence at the beginning of the year or claim period.
When challenged about the existence of a partner, customers may be reluctant to admit to their failure to declare the partner on the claim, claiming instead that s/he only moved in some time later.
You will need to use your judgement in these cases. As a general rule if you are confident the evidence you have is reasonable proof that the customer was a member of a couple from the date the claim commenced, you should put that date forward to the customer. If you feel there is some doubt around that date, or you would have difficulty in substantiating it, but you are convinced that the customer was a member of a couple at some point during the year, you should propose to the customer an appropriate date from which they should be treated as a member of a couple. You should be prepared to negotiate the date with the customer bearing in mind the important factor of getting the claim on the right basis for the future. However, you must remember that your decision may have to be defended before an appeal tribunal so you must have evidence to support the proposal.