18th September, 2013
The Bedroom Tax is clearly focusing the minds of Social Landlord staff, throughout the UK as more stories emerge of appeal successes at tribunals and there’s mounting evidence of council housing benefit sections using Discretionary Housing Payments to disuade association tenants from pursuing their grievances to the Tribunal Service. A growing number of our clients are reporting that initial DHPs are being extended to 31st March 2013 when 2013/14 rent increases will create the need for further review. All these events have not been missed by the DWP as Inside Housing reported http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6528544
I also regularly receive e-mails asking me to explain some of the more unusual aspects of the size criteria and the application of sanctions. One of our clients e-mailed the other day raising such a question. It concerned an Association who were is dispute with their local council about the extent of penalty being applied to one ot its Joint Tenancy situations.
The case involved a father (64) and his 42 year old son, both jointly and severally liable for a 3 bedroomed house with a rent of £110 per week. The Council had applied a 14% sanction of £15.40 to their Housing Benefit award believing the joint tenants were under-occupying by 1 bedroom. The HA argued that as one of the tenants was of pensionable age and in receipt of Pension Credits the sanction should not be applied. Neither was correct.
I previously covered this issue in one of my earliest bulletins, also attaching a copy of a DWP Housing Benefit circular explaining how to approach such cases. A sanction should indeed be applied but only to the son, who is of “working age” and therefore not exempt like his father.
The Calculation of the sanction:
Taking the £110 rent, apply the 14% sanction (£15.40) but then divide this , usually on a 50/50 basis, resulting in a reduction of £7.70 being applied. I have uploaded the HB circular as it provides a variety of other scenarios for you to consider where, one or other of the joint tenants has a carer etc.
On a similar theme, I’m constantly asked about the new rules applying to Foster Parenting, Army Personnel and children with severe disabilities. Again, I previously covered this in another bulletin. The link http://www.ucadvice.co.uk/housing-associations/2013/05/foster-carers-extra-bedroom-faqs-advice-from-dwp will allow you access. I’ll happily deal with any other queries you may have in this respect but I hope this information helps to clarify the situation.
I’m pleased to say we now have more than 150 Housing Associations accessing our new website and benefitting on a daily basis from the links we’ve created between the site and the Universal Credit and Rent Arrears training sessions we also provide. Doing so has allowed RSL staff to immediately access legislation, guidance and DWP circulars with little or no effort on their part.