Housing Benefit for social housing tenants – under-occupancy rules error

#Debtline #bedroomtax blog: Any working-age council or housing association tenant getting housing benefit (HB) and under-occupying their home will have had a reduced benefit award since April 2013. This is because of the introduction of size criteria in the HB calculation, also known as the 'bedroom tax' or the abolition of the 'spare room subsidy'.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now agreed that the size criteria rules have been wrongly applied to some claimants. If this affects you, the local authority should reassess your HB entitlement to remove the under-occupancy reduction. They should also refund the amount they have been deducting from your benefit since April 2013.

Who is affected?
If your HB has been reduced due to under-occupancy, you will be entitled to a refund if both the following apply to you:

  • you have been getting HB continuously since at least 1 January 1996, and
  • you have lived in the same home continuously since that date, except for any period when a fire, flood, explosion or natural catastrophe made your home uninhabitable.

Breaks of up to four weeks in HB entitlement are ignored, or up to 52 weeks if you or your partner were a ‘welfare to work beneficiary’.

What happens now?
The DWP has advised local authorities to "consider" whether they can identify affected claimants from their records. So it is possible that your local authority may contact you about this.
However, if you think you are affected, you should write to your local authority housing benefit department now and ask them to revise their decision. In your letter you could say something like:

"Please revise your decision about my housing benefit entitlement from 1 April 2013. I believe that the under-occupancy rules do not apply to me because I have been getting housing benefit continuously since 1 January 1996 and I have lived at my present address throughout that time".

The government has said that they are going to change the law so that the under-occupancy rules will apply to you again at a future date.

If you need more advice on any type of debt contact the Twinpier #debtline

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