Getting a Refund and Our Letter to Lambeth and Southwark Council
You have probably read in the news about the bedroom tax loophole which means that tenants in social housing of working age who have lived in their home since 1 January 1996 and had a continuous Housing Benefit claim should have been made exempt from the bedroom tax. If this is the case for you, you are entitled to a refund of the bedroom tax payments you have made since April 2013. If you had a continuous housing benefit claim but were forced to move due to domestic violence or damage caused by fire, flooding, explosions then the exemption still applies to you. The government are tying up the loop-hole so from March onwards, the bedroom tax will be back in place. The deadline for appealing is May. The loophole may give some people a slight reprieve, so we’ll keep on organising against all the brutal welfare and housing cuts.
If you think you may be due a refund, follow the good advice below copied from Leeds Hands Off Our Homes. There is a template appeal letter that you can use here. Come along to our next meeting on Thursday 13th February at Southwyck Community Hall, Moorlands road, Brixton, SW9 8TT.
What to Do if You Think You Are Owed a Refund.
Print out a copy of the DWP Internal bulletin on the 1996 loophole.
Gather as much information about your tenancy as you can- letters, contracts etc. It may be that councils/housing providers do not keep accurate records of tenancies going that far back – any paperwork and evidence of your tenancy you have will be vital here.
Contact or go to the central housing office with a copy of the DWP bulletin and as much information as you can get on your tenancy. Ask them for your housing benefit to be reassessed in light of the DWP bulletin and your evidence.
So far we know of several tenants who have done this. One was told that it would take 3 weeks for him to get a response, but the government guidance here is clear; until the law is amended, certain people are exempt from the bedroom tax.
Finally, this is not a solution to the problem of the policy, nor the Welfare Reform Act in total. But it might help a few people stay in their homes. For everyone else, we’re not giving up.
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth have contacted both Lambeth and Southwark council to ask them what action they are taking to inform affected tenants of their exemption and refund. The letter we sent them is published below:Dear Lib Peck, Pete Robbins, Peter John, Ian Wingfield and Richard Livingstone You will be aware of the bedroom tax loophole which was discovered recently meaning that tenants who have lived in their property since 1 January 1996 and have been eligible for housing benefit for all of that time are exempt from the bedroom tax under the present regulations (the government will tie-up this loophole in March). We understand that the Department of Work and Pensions has sent a circular to local authorities stating that exempted tenants should be refunded all money deducted under the policy since 1 April 2013. Please can you tell us: How many people in Lambeth/Southwark you have estimated to be due a refund because they have lived in their property since 1 January 1996 and had a continuous Housing Benefit claim? What steps you are taking to ensure that you contact these people and support them in claiming a refund for the wrongly applied bedroom tax? What compensation will be offered to people who were forced to move out of their home (and the stress and suffering they will have experienced because of this) but should have been exempt from the bedroom tax? We look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth