A word of caution on the ‘Bedroom Tax exemption’ victory

bedroomtax

Campaigners in the UK have been celebrating after they found a little-known regulation that exempts many social housing tenants from the Bedroom Tax.

The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006 state (in not so many words) that, if you have been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before January 1, 1996, then you are exempt from the Bedroom Tax.

The relevant part is on pages 32 and 33 of the PDF file, and schedule 3 (4) (3) (b) (ii) states that a break of up to 4 weeks in the continuous period is allowed.

Many people have seen this as a considerable victory, as it may affect a large proportion of the 660,000 households hit by the spiteful tax. Everyone who has lost money because of it has been urged to check whether they can appeal on these grounds.

Some have noted, with sadness, that people who have died – like Stephanie Bottrill  – might still be with us if we had earlier knowledge of the regulation.

Now here’s the bad news: You have to have proof that you have been in receipt of HB since before January 1, 1996, or the authorities will ignore any exemption request.

Or, as a Vox Political commenter put it: “Just been on to HB as we should be free of this bedroom tax and they just told us we need proof of being here since this time scale which after all these years we don’t. And they said their records only go back six years. My God, they just won’t have it, will they? So stuck again as no proof as housing and DHSS don’t go back to 1/jan 1996.”

How many others are in the same situation?

Worse still, look at this comment from a DWP spokesman, published in the Morning Star‘s coverage of the story: “”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,

“We are looking at this carefully and will take any necessary action to clarify our position as soon as possible.”

We all know what a DWP clarification is; it’s legislation to ensure that the regulation is removed – in order to ensure that the cock-up is erased from history and there continues to be no obstacle to Iain Duncan Smith’s plan for the impoverishment of the masses.

That’s what he tried with Workfare, after all – even if he couldn’t get it right.

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61 thoughts on “A word of caution on the ‘Bedroom Tax exemption’ victory

      1. Karen Orosky

        Each person will have a tenant’s agreement which will show how long they have lived in their property and rent statements which should show rent payments. Also, if people are receiving other benefits which entitle them to housing benefit then wouldn’t these things be proof enough?

      2. Mike Sivier

        Trouble is, we’re discussing whether people have kept such documents for 18 years. I reckon (from what other commenters have said) that it should be possible to make a case from other records that should be retained – and from the possibility that council records are available, but just kept somewhere else.

      3. Big Bill

        It’s likely that some councils would deny evidence if it were written in tablets of stone. We’ll have to wait and see what’s accepted as proof and that itself may well take some kind of ruling from a higher legal authority.

    1. christine leek

      i went 2 my local housing in westbromwich and aked for my records going back 2 1996 and first they said they couldnt go that far back but after insisting they said they will post 2 me i dont think anyone no 4 sure whats going on!i havnt got my records yet!

      1. Terry

        the way we proved it was via dhss ,as they can tell you when your claim first started and at what address

  1. beastrabban

    Mike, do you know how councils deal with ‘dead’ records? IN the Tax Office old files which were considered closed were sent first to a local store, and then finally to a national one for such ‘dead’ files. I wonder if a similar system might exist, at least for some councils. If they do, then there might be a possibility that the proof required to overturn the Bedroom Tax for these people hasn’t been destroyed.

      1. Big Bill

        Actually it’s not. The point is already made, that councils won’t have considered this aspect when they should have so decisions already made are unlawful and can be appealed and overturned on that basis. People don’t need proof. Councils do. Councils are the ones with the problem here, not claimants/tenants, and that’s down yet again to Smith and Freud and their malevolent incompetent scheming and bungling.

  2. Big Bill

    As I understand it, around 600,000 people are affected by the bedroom tax. In every one of those cases, exempt or whatever, consideration should have been given to whether this condition applied. Not only has it not been, which is grounds for an appeal says Joe Halewood, but, since records apparently don’t exist, in many cases it CANNOT have been properly considered and still can’t be as there’s no proof either way. The thing for EVERYONE AFFECTED to do then, is to appeal against any decision which has gone against them on the basis that this has not and in many cases cannot have been taken into consideration, making the decision unlawful. The point is not to get decisions overturned, but to so overwhelm the courts with appeals that the entire process becomes, due to Duncan-Smith’s screaming, hysterical and unending incompetence, unworkable.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Well now, my Freedom of Information request about claimant mortality was refused because it was ‘vexatious’, as 23 other people submitted identical requests. I wonder what excuse they’ll devise to prevent those appeals going to court?

      It’s worth a try, though!

      1. Big Bill

        The point is, if this aspect wasn’t considered when the decision was made to subject you to the bedroom tax, that decision was unlawful. If money has been withheld from you as a consequence, it’s been done unlawfully. If you’ve been evicted for rent arrears as a direct consequence of having money unlawfully withheld from you and taking into account the upheaval, the distress etc. etc. etc., well… how would this play out legally? Wouldn’t the DWP be liable for an awful lot of refunds, not to mention compensation payouts?

      2. Big Bill

        Not necessarily as conflict there was directly between individual claimants and the DWP. Here it’s between individual claimants and their local councils as it’s they who administer HB under guidance from the DWP. Thinking about it, it would more than likely be local councils people should be addressing their legal ire towards, so you’d have a lot of local cases happening. Local councils would in turn blame the clearly inadequate guidance they’ve received from the DWP. This is not the same situation as workfare at all then. This is a whole different kind of incompetence from the office of Iain Duncan-Smith!

  3. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    After the excellent news that those in receipt of Housing Benefit since before 1996 are exempt from the Bedroom Tax comes the bad news. You have to prove it, and at least one council is claiming that it has destroyed its records from this long ago. This is extremely disappointing news. Nevertheless, I hope that some people out there have retained some proof that they were in receipt of HB from this period, and that not all councils have destroyed their records from that long ago. It’s possible that they haven’t, if the claim is still active. It may also be that there are other ways to challenge the claims of those councils, who deny that there is enough proof to support such claims for exemption. I don’t know, but it strikes me that it might be possible to prove that someone has been in receipt of benefit using other forms of evidence, which may cumulatively prove that they were in receipt of HB, or that the council itself has acted negligently in destroying the evidence. I’ll check Mike, SPeye, and the other blogs and repost any further material they have on this issue.

  4. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Just a thought, as long as the individual was registered for council tax, if they go on 192.com and put in the address, post code etc. it should show the date that they registered for council tax, which presumably, will be the same date as they moved into the property. This would (hopefully) be sufficient evidence.

    1. Chrissie Mansfield

      What twaddle in any case the Tax mans records will prove you had no or little income in that time and that alone will prove you had HB so any probs people ask for your tax records they go back to the year dot 🙂

  5. Mam Bach

    For those struggling with lack of proof, does your (social housing) landlord have proof of you paying rent? If you’re still a tenant, you at the very least have a tenancy agreement, which both parties keep a copy of. They’ll have yours on file – to refer to if there are behavior clauses, requirement to maintain communal areas etc

    Why, yes, I was a tenant for ten years, paid no rent, and no one noticed. Er, no, wait, that other thing.

    If you are a continuous JSA or (most sickness benefit) The Jobcentre will have the date of start of claim. They use it to work out when you next need to go on (current stupid work replacement) You’ve been claiming straight through from, say, 93? If you weren’t getting HB, why not? Can you get all the backpay now, please? This is referred to as the ‘could be worse’ argument.

    If you have been a HB tenant for that long, chances are they’ve delayed payment on you at least once. So when your rent didn’t show up, your landlord would have a note of that, with WHY. Evidence that rent was normally being paid by HB is inferred if evidence shows HB doesn’t show up and was expected.

    These aren’t perfect, but they might help.

  6. Mike Sivier

    I’ve had this from Jaypot2012 on a different comment thread:

    “Can you also let people know that you CAN get your details back from the DWP from 2006 as I have not long had a run in with them and I’ve got everything back from 1995!
    Don’t let them try putting you off by saying that you have no records – THEY DO!”

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  8. julia

    its such a shame that even now they make you fight for what is right..only the tory scum could do this hang your heads in shame,

  9. Pam Sampson

    I don’t see how they can get out of this one! The pre – 1996 legislation is to ‘protect’ eligible rent from having the bedroom tax imposed,isn;t it? . so, even if they closed this loophole now, surely all the people who’ve had the BT stolen from them, or have been frightened into giving up their HOMES have to be compensated? They could only remove this clause from this date, so everyone needs to get their appeals in asap! Good Luck all 🙂

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  11. Debbie Price

    I’m an HA tenant and have been in my home for 22 years and due to ill health have been on HB all that time. So, I am eligible to be exempt…. I have a rent statement every month that clearly shows HB payments. So, don’t for see any issues. Every Landlord, will have some records from when your tenancy started. And, as has been said, there are other ways to obtain proof…. The issue is, more so, IF councils are aware of these regulations. They will have to do their homework…. And, for those who DO know already. Shame on them, for not letting their tenants know!!! …. I have heard of one lady, who is due for a £400 refund………….

    We will have to wait and see what happens……..

  12. joehalewood

    Mike

    It is NOT up to the tenant to prove it at all and that is a nonsense. HB depts are responsible for making the decision correctly and are responsible for checking records NOT the tenant.

    Secondly, go back to where this originated and you find a bedroom tax tribunal judge DIRECTING a council to make sure all claims have been assessed for this pre 1996 issue.

    Thirdly, how could Exeter City Council within the space of 48 hours take a claim on this, assess it and put a letter through a tenants letterbox all within the space of 48 hours if they did not hold records?

    Finally, I agree that DWP may want to change this regulation but they cannot do this retrospectively and the 100,000 or so men women and children that have had the bedroom tax imposed on them in error would have one hell of a legal case if the DWP attempted to do this!!

    1. Mike Sivier

      Joe,

      I certainly hope you’re right.

      However, the commenter I quoted did get that reaction – she was told she needed to provide proof.

      A judge directing A council is not the same as a judge directing ALL councils, and it may be that some will not make any proactive moves on this – they’ll have to be told to do the right thing. My guess is that many will resist it as long as they can.

      I don’t know the answer to your third point – I wasn’t there.

      Finally, bear in mind that we’re talking about Iain Duncan Smith’s department.

      1. joehalewood

        Then advise ALL tenants to put this in writing as councils will tell you anything orally yet be very reluctant to put the same issues to paper. Why tenants persist with phoning or visiting is beyond comprehension – put this in writing and if council says its tenants responsibility which it is not then tenants should haul the council over the coals at a tribunal as Im sure the judges will

  13. karon

    hi . this sounds like good news my sister has got an eviction date for the 29th january for not paying the bedroom tax, she has been on hb for 20 odd years, ive spoke with her local MP, HB officer , also descrectionary payments for her , and when i told her not to fill out their expendicture form as she did not need any help with ther finances , after all its only the BEDROOM tax she has ever been in arears with also its nothing to do with them what she spends her money on , the money the goverment give her to live on nothing more , any less money would put her in poverty, thats there words too,who are the council asking her for all her out goings , its not their business, its her money to choose what she pays on food gas electric and anything els for that matter. with that said, they sent her a letter to court , so i guess she did not tick the right boxes for the discretionary payments , this letter i realy hope we can use for her , it makes my blood boil what they do to people merry christmas to you all , i must come off of here as my family are giving me the look all the best karon xxx

  14. juicey1964

    Has anyone been able to get proof? and if so where from please as i’ve been told still pay up or be flung out. they rang the phone to say hope you not spent over xmas as you have rent you need to pay, told them i want to appeal, they said still pay rent or we’re at real risk of losing our home. just don`t know what to do now…..as hb don`t even want to know – all you get from them is i know nothing of this wtf they must know!!

  15. Jayson Carmichael

    All this has been in both the legal and political spotlight this year. This isn’t an ancient regulation. It should have been noticed and used in deliberations. People , prob mainly disabled, have been hounded for payments

  16. Debbie Price

    Hi juicey1964…. This is why you should not deal with them over the phone!!!!!!!! They wouldn’t dare say that to you in a letter!!
    There are template letters you can send. Doing the rounds on FB groups.
    IF they are claiming they know nothing about this, to wriggle out of it. Then, it is up to them to do their homework.
    Remember this go’s to the HB dept of your council, not your Landlord. And, if you have any issues with them, tell them you want to go to a tribunal……

    1. Big Bill

      There will need to be a judgement or three on what can be accepted as proof. However, that’s not the point. The point is the council have to establish they’ve considered this aspect, as I keep saying, in determining whether or not you’re liable for the bedroom tax. Clearly they haven’t and as is obvious in many cases they simply can’t, which means they can’t make a judgement! Any judgements which have been made already now appear to be unlawful, and that has potentially very expensive consequences for them and for Duncan-Smith’s DWP. TENANTS DON’T HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING!!!!! STOP BLOODY WORRYING ABOUT IT!!!!!! FFS… #headdesk

  17. Mark

    If you ask the DWP for a copy of all Incapacity Benefit claims the claimant has made between 1994 to present date, that would show a continual claim prior to 1996 and given the type of benefit, people would be in receipt of housing benefits.

    It is a cop out that these council only keep records going back 6 years, it is funny though, they are able to provide evidence for longer periods when it suits them such as in fraudulent claims cases.

    IMHO these councils are full of 5h1t.

  18. Susan

    My mum has been told she is entitled to her bedroom tax back will that mean she will also get the council tax she has had to pay tnx

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m not sure but I doubt it because council tax is calculated with reference to the whole property. Your best bet may be to ask Joe at SPeye, or on Facebook try Fightback.

    2. Pam Sampson

      No Susan – council tax is a different thing to bedroom tax. The pre – 1996 legislation means you were unlawfully charged, as you should have been exempt.

  19. A steel.taylor

    Got bed room tax back,but the housing team said will not be in cash,but it will be used as credit for coming year bed room tax.that in affect will stop me applieing for dhp.it is all wrong I payed it in cash so should get it back in cash.

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