The DWP’s guidance to local authorities…

Check this out: This is what the Department for Work and Pensions tells Brent Council to tell you.

Interesting lines…

“Bedroom size
12. We will not be defining what we mean by a bedroom in legislation and there is no definition of a minimum bedroom size set out in regulations. It will be up to the landlord to accurately describe the property in line with the actual rent charged.”

– So if Brent Council, as ‘the landlord’, wishes to redesignate their properties in a more ‘accurate’ manner, they would be able to do so….

” 19. There will be claimants affected by this measure who live in significantly adapted accommodation due to someone in the household having a disability. It will not always be practical or cost effective for these people to move to different accommodation or they may have no other option for making up the shortfall in rent. An extra £25 million has been added to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) fund specifically for these circumstances. When gathering information from landlords on the size of accommodation, you should ask about any adapted accommodation as well as collecting the same information about local authority let  accommodation. This will help you prepare for future claims for DHPs.”

– This might be useful for disabled tenants to know and apply for.

“21. If a claimant does not reply to a request for information the local authority has the power to suspend their housing benefit under normal decision making rules.”

– Hm.

“59. To ensure that claimants, especially those in the above groups, are aware they may potentially qualify for a DHP, it is important to publicise the existence of the DHP arrangements. DHPs are a key element of the Government’s strategy for managing reductions to Housing Benefit arising from welfare reform.”

– This is a guideline within the guidance, but not one we can see anyone having made much of an effort to promote and follow.

71. Regulation 12BA also provides for a protected eligible rent based upon the actual rent for up to:

 – 13 weeks where the claimant has not previously been awarded housing benefit in the past 52 weeks and was able to meet their rent obligation themselves when they entered into it. 

– 12 months where certain members of the claimant’s household have died. This is based either upon the actual rent or, in the case of an existing award of housing benefit, the previous eligible rent.”

– ie, for the first 13 weeks of needing housing benefit, you shouldn’t have to pay the bedroom tax at all. If someone in your household dies, you shouldn’t be contacted or harrassed to pay bedroom tax within 12 months of their death,

… and this is one of a number of interesting case study examples that hasn’t turned up a lot in guidance, but is pretty likely to apply in a number of cases:

Example 4: A four bedroom house is occupied by a single adult and a lone parent and her daughter. The lone parent is the claimant and a joint tenant with the single adult and both are responsible for paying half the rent each. She maintains she is not underoccupying as she is entitled to two rooms for herself and her daughter. 

The total eligible rent = £65
Applying the size criteria means that the household is deemed to be under-occupying by one bedroom. A 14% reduction of £9.10 is made from the eligible rent of £65. The remaining figure of £55.90 is apportioned two ways resulting in Housing Benefit entitlement for the lone parent of £27.95.”

There are a lot of different template letters at the end of this, which might reflect the kind of thing housing associations and councils are basing their information on. They all focus on telling people what ‘might’ happen, before telling them if they may be exempt. They also contain very sparse information throughout on the types of tenant who could apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (except in a separate factsheet right at the end which gives some basic comments).

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