In recent weeks there has been much debate on welfare rights discussion forums about a potential “Bedroom Tax” loophole affecting tenancies created before 1st January 1996. Apparently, the case for challenge was first identified by a first-tier tribunal judge and has since been applied in other cases. DWP has already acknowledged there may be merit in the arguments presented:
“A DWP spokesman admitted the discovery could affect one of the government’s most unpopular policy. We are aware of a potential regulatory issue in relation to pre-1996 social sector housing benefit tenants and the removal of the spare room subsidy,” he said. We are looking at this carefully and will take any necessary action to clarify our position as soon as possible.”
As soon as I became aware of the situation I wrote to the DWP’s Head of Housing Strategy and my e-mail was immediately passed for a response. As soon as I hear from DWP I’ll provide you with a copy of its response to the claims. In the meantime, you may wish to consider alerting your own staff to the potential claims that could be made.
As I understand the position, the Housing Benefit regulations cited were designed to provide “transitional protection” to housing benefit claimants who have been in continuous receipt of Housing Benefit since 1st January 1996 and continue to occupy the same dwelling throughout the period. The regulations also make exceptions to the “continuity test” by providing for situations where the HB award has been interrupted (broken) for periods of 4 weeks or less and for situations where spouses/partners/non-dependent sons/daughters etc. assume liability for the dwellings rent, and inherit the HB claim and associated protection from the “previous beneficiary” where they have, for example, died, separated, left the dwelling permanently or been imprisoned.
So whilst the initial HB claim must start on or before 1st January 1996 because of the “inheritance” provision a spouse, son daughter or close family member could benefit from their father/mother’s continuous claims as long as there’s no gap of more than 4 weeks.
How many people could potentially benefit from the provisions – “Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006” – remains to be seen but it’s something you may wish to examine with your Housing Management team before deciding whether it’s worthwhile trying to identify potential beneficiaries.
If you decide to do so and discover it would be worthwhile you can use “Request for HB revision letter” I’ve uploaded onto the website www.ucadvice.co.uk. If you would like more information on this topic or you’re interested in finding out more about the services we provide, including becoming a member of our website, please contact me bill@ucadvice.co.uk or 01698 424301 0r 07733 080 389.