Bedroom Tax!

What is the Bedroom Tax?

The under occupancy sanction, more commonly known as the Bedroom Tax, took effect from April 1st 2013, as part of a larger reform of the benefit system. It is a newly introduced welfare reform which is set to see tenants both working and unemployed under housing benefits pay for any unoccupied bedrooms. With 10,000 council tenants estimated to be affected in Birmingham and a further 5,000 tenants from registered landlords, the West Midlands will make up 9% of Great Britain’s affected claimants. Taking into account carers,children, spouses etc. it is estimated that around 60,000 people will be affected in total.

Do I have to pay the bedroom tax?

1)If you are: not retired.

2)If you are: living in council housing or a housing association house and claiming housing benefit

Then for every one spare room you have you will lose 14% of your housing benefit. If you have two rooms you’ll lose 25%.Which will leave you £500 -£1000 worse off a year.

Can’t Pay Won’t Pay – How to avoid paying the Bedroom Tax

One of the easiest ways to beat the tax involves simply measuring your room. As Birmingham City Council are refusing to follow the Housing Act 1985 section 326 which states a room under 70 square feet is not a full bedroom. If your room is smaller than 70 square feet then you don’t need to pay the tax. You need to write to your local Housing Officer. If the officer refuses to listen to you then take legal action against them. The more people that complain to the council, and take legal action against them, the better as each appeal costs BCC hundreds of pounds.

The Knowsley Housing Trust has reclassified nearly 600 family homes as smallerproperties. This will exempt tenants from having their housing benefit reduced under the’bedroom tax’. This means that tenants have got reduced rents as well. Organised groups of tenants could campaign to get their homes re-classed.

If you have received a letter notifying you that you will be hit by the bedroom tax, you canappeal the decision in writing. Each appeal lodged costs the council around £200 andforces them to open a file and spend time reviewing it.If everyone who receives a letter lodges an appeal, we can throw a spanner in the works of the bedroom tax, making it too difficult and too expensive to roll out.

Eviction Resistance

If you find yourself facing eviction from your home as a result of the bedroom tax, contact us and we will help you physically resist the bailiffs attempts at evicting you. There have been numerous cases of people successfully resisting eviction.Evictions often go unnoticed. People are asked to leave quietly and threatened with arrest if they don’t.

We refuse to be intimidated. We refuse to keep quiet.

Here is a template letter to use to write to your council.

Some tenants have received letters from their landlords to say the bedroom tax may apply to them. Any such letter is simply a letter and for the bedroom tax to apply to any tenant you will receive a formal letter from the council Housing Benefit department – a Notice – with regard to the bedroom tax decision.

When a decision is taken by the Housing Benefit department that the bedroom tax applies you will receive a “Benefit Decision Notice” (BDN) and this by comparison is a legal letter – a Notice. Even if your landlord is the council they will need to send you a formal letter from the Housing Benefit department.

The BDN will say how you can appeal the decision, which is a right, and I copy below what Housing Benefit decision letters from Liverpool City Council say and wherever you live this will be very similar. It says: –

“If you want to know more about this decision or think it is wrong, you must tell us within one month of this letter or we may not be able to help.

You can either:

  • Ask for an explanation
  • Ask us to look again at the decision
  • Appeal against the decision – this can only be in writing. If you appeal against the decision an independent tribunal administered by the Tribunal Service will hear your appeal.”

In short – ‘explain’, ‘look again’ and ‘appeal’ are your basic options. Any or all of these 3 options form the challenge. You can write asking for the council to send a more detailed explanation to you which you can then consider with a view to issuing a later appeal within the month or asking the council to look again after they have sent you the more detailed explanation.

If you have received a letter notifying you that you will be hit by the bedroom tax, you can appeal the decision in writing. Each appeal lodged costs the council around £200 and forces them to open a file and spend time reviewing it.

If everyone who receives a letter lodges an appeal, we can throw a spanner in the works of the bedroom tax, making it too difficult and too expensive to roll out. You can use the standard letter below as a template:

Put simply, if you want to put a figurative bomb underneath the bedroom tax and force the coalition to rethink, and rethink bloody quickly, as they will be heavily pressured from EVERY local authority to do something, then every bedroom tax affected household should exercise their right to challenge their bedroom tax decision does precisely that!

Sample Letter

To whom it may concern (add council official, housing association, etc)

I received your decision letter dated (INSERT DATE) and referenced above that imposed an under occupation charge, or bedroom tax of 14% / 25% (delete as appropriate) on my existing award of Housing Benefit.

I consider this unwarranted yet in order to challenge this in the correct way and potentially by way of formal appeal I require further information to be sent to me within 7 days of this letter and the urgency of that is to ensure I have enough time to formulate any such appeal and in full knowledge of the facts ofmy case within the time allowed; OR in the alternative I request the deadline for any such formal appeal be moved to 21 days after I receive the request information below:

  1. A written copy of the Council’s policy and decision-making procedures in relation to referring a socially housed claimant decision to the Rent Officer Service.
  1. A full explanation of how the council decided that (INSERT ADDRESS) was determined to be a 3 bed property for the under occupation charge and this to include what involvement if any of my landlord, (INSERT LANDLORD NAME) in this process.

Please state by way of covering letter with the requested information any changed deadline date from above with regard to a formal appeal.

Yours, etc.

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