Friday, 3 January 2014

Bedroom tax, how to appeal!

Why circa 100,000 men women and children are exempt from the Bedroom Tax..and the consequences!!

My last two posts have caused consternation as they have stated very assertively that there is a group of persons who are exempt from the bedroom tax yet have had the bedroom tax imposed upon them in error. Tenants are exempt from the bedroom tax if they meet BOTH the following conditions:
1. They have continuously received Housing Benefit (full HB or 1p per week) on or before 1 January 1996, AND
2. They have lived in the same property since 1 January 1996
IF you meet the above two conditions, and for the avoidance of doubt it has to be BOTH of them then you are exempt because the way your “eligible rent” is determined cannot have the bedroom tax imposed.  In simple terms you are exempt and the bedroom tax cannot apply under Housing Benefit regulations (the rules) and if this applies to you then send in a simple letter something similar to the one at the end of this should suffice and it took 2 minutes to draft. It is a simple matter so keep the letter simple.
I also read today that a councillor in Exeter tweeted he had seen the letter sent to the tenant which was the subject of my post here for full detail so the letter was not a hoax as some naysayers stated. So lets be clear and not beat around the bush, this exemption applies and it applies because the HB regulations say it applies!
Below I suggest about 100,000 men, women and children will now be taken out of the bedroom tax because of this exemption!
I also read today that Exeter City Council estimate 4% of tenants will be exempt from the bedroom tax because of this issue. That doesn’t sound a lot yet if that 4% figure is replicated nationally – and this exemption applies nationally  don’t forget – it means 26,400 households are exempt when they have been charged the bedroom tax. As each household typically has 2.4 occupants then 63,360 men women and children are going to be much happier this Christmas!
However the DWP’s own figures would suggest many more than this. The South West has 20% of working age tenants affected by the bedroom tax which is the lowest percentage nationally and nationally the average is 31% (it ranges from 20% in the South West to a whopping 46% in Wales) So this would mean ceteris paribus (all things being equal) that 40.920 households would be exempt nationally and at 2.4 occupants per household this makes 98,208 men women and children exempt from the bedroom tax who are now having the bedroom tax wrongly imposed upon them and have had this imposed wrongly since April.
Firstly that is a fantastic Christmas present for all those for whom this applies.
Secondly, it is fantastic news for all those who despise the pernicious bedroom tax. Its yet another nail and a significant one in the coffin.
Thirdly, it is a significant political blow to the coalition and to IDS in particular.  The credibility of the coalitions welfare reform agenda is seriously called into question and by extension the general public will see the bedroom tax for what it is – a back of a fag packet policy.  And there are a number of related issues that sees acute political embarrassment to the coalition which I will now discuss.
This exemption put simply is because if you meet the two conditions your “eligible rent” which is a specific Housing Benefit term in regulations is protected from any changes such as the bedroom tax deduction. Here is where that gets really interesting!
The DWP issued the bedroom tax guidance in a HB circular called the A4 of 2012 and this document is 47 pages long and highly prescriptive and tells the HB officer at your local council what to do in making the bedroom tax decision.  I wouldn’t call it quite spoon feeding but its damn close.  It is an incredibly strongly steered document that details in a chronological order what each local council – the bedroom tax decision makers – had to do.  The DWP thought they had made this watertight by being so comprehensive and so highly detailed and prescriptive.  The A4 of 2012 mentions the specific term “eligible rent” on no less than 29 occasions but guess what reader?
It does NOT mention “eligible rent” in the context of this exemption!! The buffoons at the DWP missed it!!!
It is correct to say that the DWP misled and misdirected every single local council by failing to include this meaning and protection that the pre 1996 cases give to “eligible rent.”  In fact at paragraph 10 the DWP actually states “There are no exceptions (to the bedroom tax) apart from those listed in paras 46-50.”  But the DWP was and is wrong in that and they failed to see this exemption which they should have done!
In political terms this is one almighty cock up that sees circa 100,000 men women and children have the bedroom tax imposed on them and the life changing impacts that had when they should not have had he bedroom tax imposed!!
Think about this some more and the two conditions, continuous receipt of HB and living in same property for the last 18 years or more will likely affect those who are on disability benefits as such cases will not have worked and so claimed HB over this time.
So not only is this 100,000 men women and children shafted by this incompetence and errant guidance (and the A4 is so prescriptive it resembles direction rather than guidance) it has shafted the one ‘group’ of people the general public think are deserving – the disabled.
Yes one almighty cock-up in political terms.
Of course IDS and DWP will blame local councils as you would expect ………and in this case they are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT TO DO SO!
Local councils despite being led up the garden path by this incompetent A4/2012 guidance have the responsibility to ensure that ALL HB decision conform to the HB Regulations and that includes the “Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006 which is the HB regulation that provides the exemption from the bedroom tax.
Because the local councils got this wrong do the tenant victims that had the bedroom tax imposed in error have a claim against their local council? I have no answer for that but would assume there must be a case and especially because this was no ordinary cock up by local government; it had very significant consequences for these victims – the choice of eat or heat is a phrase bandied about since the welfare reforms and so this errant bedroom tax deduction is not just an ordinary everyday cock up!
Yet perhaps a bigger threat for local councils is that when they pay this money back to tenants the DWP may well say as local councils made the cock up then central government are not going to pay these monies to local councils?  I suspect they will and almost inevitably have to do that to save their own political face.
I wonder how many local council HB staff and particularly managers and finance managers are now wondering I wish I hadn’t made these sham and expedient decisions in the first place?  Try all local councils and if ever you reap what you sow was appropriate ….  A quick calculation see that councils have been underpaying tenants by about £573,000 per week and since the bedroom tax began at todays date that is 39 weeks or £22,347,000
So local councils have wrongly taken away over £22 million from the most vulnerable by their incompetence in making the bedroom tax decisions with such crass and shambolic processes!  But lets not forget they were strongly steered down this errant path by IDS and the DWP
Yes reap what you sow is incredibly appropriate!! Finncailly for local government and politically for central government
However the real claim could well be against landlords.  IF social landlords have advised tenants to downsize because of the bedroom tax and those that have moved directly because of this are going to be severely pissed off and rightly so if it is now the case that they are exempt from the bedroom tax.  Anyone see a huge number of hawkish solicitors advertising to such tenants on the where there’s a blame there’s a claim basis?  Yes has to be the answer to that one I imagine
Is there anyone out there who still thinks the bedroom tax was well thought through?  Anyone out there who still doesn’t think all local councils cravenly colluded with central government in this farce? Anyone out there who still thinks landlords did their best for tenants?  No, no and possibly some very honorable exceptions with social landlords but very tiny in number.
Anyone out there who still thinks that the Chartered Institute of Housing advised their members the landlords well?  Anyone out there who still thinks the Local Government Association advised their members the local councils well?  No didn’t think so!
But tis the season of goodwill readers and so lets concentrate on the circa 100,000 much happier smiles that will be on the faces of tenants who have been shafted and shafted and shafted time and time again in the bedroom tax by this chronic incompetence…who are now googling “No win No fee” like crazy!
i would suggest a very simple standard letter is sent by tenants who maintain they meet the two conditions above – continuous receipt of HB since 1 Jan 1996 and lived at the same property on that date and to date.
The letter would go to your local council and keep it simple as this is a simple matter (I know thats hard to believe but it is!)
Dear Sirs,
I ask you to reconsider my bedroom tax decision in your HB decision notice dated DD/MM/YYYY in accordance with HB regulations and with regard to statutory instrument 217 of 2006 in terms of my protected “eligible rent” the Consequential Provisions Regulations 2006 holds as I maintain I have been in continuous receipt of Housing Benefit since at least the 1 January 1996 and have have lived at my current address in all that time.
Yours etc
Anyone think your local council would make this same mistake twice?  Anyone think your council will say this is a let review and they will not reconsider and be shamed and risk being lambasted by the tribunals at appeal?  No me neither
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