It has come to light that a loophole in the legislation governing the bedroom tax means families across the country have wrongly had their Housing Benefit cut. Experts are anticipating that this could affect up to 40,000 households.
The gap in the regulations applies to those people who have continuously claimed Housing Benefit since 1996 (a break of up to 4 weeks is permitted) in respect of the same property. Such claimants should not be affected by the under-occupancy rules and should not face a reduction in their benefit as a result of having one or more spare bedrooms.
Anyone who meets the criteria is entitled to ask for a review of their entitlement and if successful will have their benefit backdated to April 2013 and their full award re-instated for the time being. But what about those tenants who have already faced Court action after arrears began to accrue? Many tenants have already been made subject to Suspended Possession Orders after they fell behind with their rent and social landlords have been quick to commence court proceedings. If tenants now receive a credit to their rent account, I highly doubt landlords taking steps to set aside the previous County Court judgments. And what about those who have already been evicted or who have moved out of their family homes when they could no longer afford them?
Thousands of people’s lives have been devastated by the imposition of the bedroom tax. Many have lost their homes or faced severe financial difficulties, getting into debts with loan companies, falling behind on their utilities and having to go without food and heating to be able to keep the roof above their heads.
The government seems keen on tying up the loophole as quickly as possible so unfortunately while some may be eligible for a brief reprieve if they can obtain a backdate and have their arrears reduced, it seems likely that the sorry process will only start again, unless something significant is done to bring the bedroom tax to an end.
By Elizabeth Lowe, solicitor in the housing law team