We have posted below a letter we have sent to Peter Gruen about the pre-1996 bedroom tax exemption in order to produce more publicity of the exemption. If you are affected by the bedroom tax and think you might have been claiming Housing Benefit since 1996 please get in touch or read this.
Dear Councillor Gruen,
I am sure it will not have escaped the attention of yourself and your housing officers that the DWP now accept that there has been a bit of an error in bringing into force the “Bedroom Tax” legislation.
Those tenants of social landlords who have claimed Housing Benefit continuously since the 1st of January 1996 and who have lived continuously at the same address or have moved through no fault of their own or against their will are now found to be exempt from paying the Bedroom Tax.
There are some exceptions to the continuity of the Housing Benefit claim such as a single four week break or an annual period when a tenants benefits have changed “temporarily” but what this means is that a number of tenants who have been paying their rent in full despite a cut in their HB or those who have been pestered with letters giving notice of intent to seek Possession (or worse) are, in fact, exempt from the dreaded tax.
Such people should now have their full HB reinstated and any rent that has been paid by the tenant should be reimbursed. We understand that any Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) that may have been paid will remain in the hands of the recipient tenants and will not have to be returned.
We at Hands off our Homes were notified by one happy tenant within an hour of posting information on our web site that a refund was due. We feel sure that the council will be much better placed to contact all those tenants who should not have been liable to the tax to inform them of the current position. No doubt council records dating back to 1996 are readily available in relation to HB payments and continuity of tenure or if a move has occurred the reasons for it.
If the records are incomplete can you confirm that you will be writing to all those affected by the BT as at April 2013 to notify them of the change in the HB rules? And if tenants have felt forced to move because of the demands made of them no doubt they can be contacted at their new properties to be informed that they need not have moved and informing them as to how they may seek compensation for the upset and cost of such an unnecessary upheaval?
Our concern is that those most likely to fit the criteria of being exempt from the tax could be disabled people or women with children – those most vulnerable of people. Perhaps housing officers can now be a little less demanding of tenants and spend time to really understand the details of a tenants situation so that further errors in deductions can be avoided.
We will do what we can with our limited resources to get the message out and hope the council will do the same after all the longer it takes to sort this matter out the more expensive it will become for the council and possibly the DWP too.
Perhaps this could all help to drive another nail into the BT coffin.
Your response is awaited.
Yours sincerely John Davies Chair Hands off our Homes