The Bedroom Tax, one of the most unpopular aspects of the welfare reform programme, was introduced to tenants in local authority and registered social landlord housing in April of this year.
The ‘Bedroom Tax’ is not strictly a tax but instead a reduction in the amount of Housing Benefit that claimants can receive if they are thought to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes. Under-occupation is decided by the allocation of a number of rooms that claimants need based on their circumstances, and then matching this to the number of bedrooms in their homes.
Those who are thought to be under-occupying by one room will have their Housing Benefit reduced by 14 per cent and those who are under-occupying by two bedrooms or more will face a reduction of 25 per cent.
There may, however, be an argument that will assist a small number of claimants that will mean that the Bedroom Tax will not apply to them.
This argument applies to current Housing Benefit claimants who became entitled to the benefit prior to 1st January 1996 and have been entitled to Housing Benefit continuously (with a limited number of exceptions) since then. Claimants must also have remained in the same property.
This argument may be successful as, prior to the 1st January 1996, the piece of legislation used to decide the amount of maximum Housing Benefit that a claimant could be entitled to, is different from the law that is used to identify maximum Housing Benefit from 1st January 1996 onwards.
The argument that the Bedroom Tax should not apply to pre-1996 claimants is that the Bedroom Tax legislation only refers to the law post 1996 and, therefore, the Bedroom Tax does not apply to those who had claimed Housing Benefit before this date.
It is important to stress that it is early days in the progress of this argument but at this stage there would appear to be merit in claimants who can use this argument to lodge applications asking the Local Authority to look at their Housing Benefit claim again.
A standard letter to request a review of Housing Benefit is available and can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Emails must contain your name, full address, date of birth, national insurance number and telephone contact number.
You will need to complete the letter with details of the local office that administers your Housing Benefit claim.
Should the Local Authority reject the argument put forward in the letter you will have the right to appeal against that decision (appeals should be lodged within one month of the refusal to review your Housing Benefit).
ENABLE Direct will be able to advise you on local advice agencies that can assist with your appeal. ENABLE Direct can be contacted on 0300 0200 101.